ETHNIC PREJUDICE CONFRONTED, DAY 8
Today’s reading is drawn from Acts 6:2-6.
The community of believers at Jerusalem was constantly growing and changing (Acts 1:15; 2:41, 47; 4:4, 32; 5:14). They experienced amazing unity (2:46; 4:32; 5:12), and their sacrificial generosity meant that their material needs were being met (2:45; 4:34, 36).
But a problem with feeding widows threatened to fracture this successful community (6:1). The underlying issue was less about meeting physical needs than simmering ethnic hostility between the Hebrews (Jews born in Judea and Galilee) and the Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jews born outside of Palestine). Hellenists were despised by many who considered them to be “contaminated” by Gentiles, but Hellenists responded to the gospel in large numbers. The clash could easily have destroyed the church or divided it into separate ethnic communities. But the apostles took steps to head off a crisis.
- They met face-to-face with the Hellenists (the powerful met with the powerless).
- They listened to complaints and acknowledged their legitimacy.
- They worked with the Hellenists to devise guidelines for godly leaders and chose seven whose names suggest they were from the Hellenist minority at Jerusalem.
- They approved and commissioned these new leaders by praying with them, laying their hands on them, and committing to work with them.
- They gave the new leaders authority over the distribution of food for widows.
- They shared power and resources and affirmed the dignity of the newly chosen leaders.
The result was that “the word of God spread, and … multiplied greatly in Jerusalem” (6:7).