November 6 I Friday
“Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them...” —Acts 6:3
The events of Acts 2 give us a beautiful picture of what the kingdom of heaven will be like as mankind reconciles to God and to one another. There is a wonderful unity among the people as they divest themselves of real estate, sell their property and bring the money to the church. This lasted for a few chapters in Acts, because by chapter 6, there was a tension and a system of bias within the church.
The Hellenistic Jews were complaining against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The difference between the two Jewish groups is that a Hellenistic Jew was probably Gentile by birth, but Jewish by observation and religion, while a Hebraic Jew was Jewish in ancestry and grew up in Israel. A system of injustice started to creep into the early church as one cultural group was getting precedence over the other.
When this problem was brought to the attention of the church leadership, they did not deny the problem. Instead, they listened to the voice of the hurting, and acknowledged the problem from the cultural bias that was at play in creating a systemic injustice. The Hebraic Jews grew up in this cultural climate, whose social, theological and ancestral worldview fashioned their life experience. Being influenced by the culture they grew up in, their bias became a part of the structure that held power over the distribution of food.
The church leadership sought to solve the issue by selecting seven godly men who were full of the Spirit and wisdom: “They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism” (Acts 6:5). Many scholars, who studied the names of the seven leaders in Acts 6:5, note that they are Greek names. The church was led to hand power over to the group that felt oppressed. When faced with discrepancy and bias, the church embraced a servant-based leadership and empowered those who were hurt by the system. As a result, the gospel continued to spread rapidly across ethnic boundaries into every nation, tribe, people and language.
Even as Jesus-professing Christians, we could have cultural blind spots and biases that affect how we treat others in the body of Christ. It takes courage to acknowledge areas where we are not living in line with the gospel, areas where our culture and our worldview has been shaped by bias. May we embrace the beauty and the diversity of the kingdom of heaven.
Prayer: All-loving God, I confess of my cultural blind spots and biases. Forgive me and show me how to embrace the beauty and the diversity of Your kingdom.