Acts 6; Deuteronomy 28; Job 17
Problems are usually deeper than what people say they are. Up to now, the early church was gliding along dealing with problems that came from outside the church. The authorities worked hard to stamp out the early church and failed. Now came the internal problems. The problem as described is that some were being neglected. “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” (Acts 6:1) The Hebrews had lived in Israel all along and had all the power, since they had been the ones to have seen and known Jesus. The Hellenists had been affected by the Greek culture and may not have been comfortable with Hebrew if they knew it. The division began. The problem that was the focal point was that when the church took care of its members, those widows who came from the Greek areas weren’t being provided for. The issue, ultimately, was leadership and inclusion. The apostles wisely suggested some new leaders. They had to have a good reputation, be full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom. I’ve been a waiter. You can do a good job of waiting on tables without all of those qualities. If the gospel was going to spread, though, it needed to get outside of Jerusalem and into the world dominated by Greek culture. The Romans may have had the military strength, but the Greeks dominated the culture. Unless there was authentic Greek leadership, the gospel would never spread outside areas of Israel. The first seven deacons were chosen. The grumbling stopped and these seven deacons, chosen ostensibly to wait on tables, went out and proclaimed the gospel. The first to be killed for his outspoken faith was one of these seven. Whenever we share with someone from a different cultural background or outlook, the hardest thing to realize is that the best person to reach that culture is a person from that culture. How often do we confuse our culture with our faith? For years I thought I was a Christian because I was an American. Someone had to teach me that following Jesus didn’t happen because I was from America; it happened when I made that decision to follow Jesus. The gospel transcends cultures and we need to trust those whom we share with to be the best people to share with their own culture.
Lord, help me to share Your love and Your word. Your message doesn’t compel people to become Americans. Your message compels Americans to become like You. Your message compels all people to become more like You. Remind me that You came to draw people to You and not to my way of life.