We Christians are people-helpers. It’s in the Spirit-loaded software at new birth. Problem is, we often insist on preserving the right to be selective about the recipients of our aid, as though there’s some substantive difference between one kind of human and another. The earliest Christians discovered this tendency in themselves and made the necessary adjustments. Seems like we could benefit from a reminder to do the same.
During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word.”
The congregation thought this was a great idea. They went ahead and chose—
Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolas, a convert from Antioch.
Then they presented them to the apostles. Praying, the apostles laid on hands and commissioned them for their task.
The Word of God prospered. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased dramatically. Not least, a great many priests submitted themselves to the faith. Acts 6:1-7 (The Message)
There’s wasn’t simply an administrative problem that was fixed with a more efficient distribution of food for widows. There was a cultural prejudice at play. The first Christians, most of whom were Jews, wrestled with whether or not to accept the non-Jews into the Church as equals. Though outnumbered by their Roman oppressors, in the Church, Jews held the status of the majority culture. Continue reading