A Church Divided

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 
Acts 6:1
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:2-6
We’re spending this week in Acts 6. It’s a chapter that starts positively, the church is growing! But, that growth has brought challenges and conflict. At this stage in the story the church is no longer a small collection of Jewish converts who had been following Jesus before his death. Though still overwhelmingly Jewish, the church is now a mix of Jews from Israel and the wider region. The conflict described in v1 is between the Hellenists (the Greek-speaking Jews) and the Hebrews (the Hebrew- or Aramaic-speaking Jews), and the resulting failure of the church to take care of the widows of the Hellenists. It may be that were was already two movements separated along language lines in Jerusalem (e.g. there were Hellenistic synagogues in Jerusalem, see Acts 6:9), but, it’s clear that there were cultural, and possibly ethnic, tensions in the Christian movement in Jerusalem.

We’ll look at how the apostles sought to practically help these neglected widows in the coming days. But, for today, we’re going to pause on this first verse, and take time to reflect on our own church and our own hearts. Because, unfortunately, the issue of racial/ethnic/cultural division is still too common. There will be those in our church who feel isolated, overlooked, and discriminated against because of their ethnicity or culture.

The church was founded on beliefs which should be fundamentally unifying. Everyone is created in God’s image. Everyone needs restoration and forgiveness. Everyone can find redemption and new life through Jesus Christ. These truths tear down any manmade division between us, be they racial, ethnic, religious, cultural practise, geographical location, or social status (Colossians 3:11). How can we be a church that champions and exemplifies racial/ethnic/cultural inclusion?
1)   For those in the minority, are there specific issues within our church community that the majority culture is blind to? Are you currently facing discrimination? Does the description of the diverse early church give you encouragement that racial harmony/solidarity is possible?

2)   For those in the majority, what would it look like for you to show radical solidarity? What might you do to take steps towards this? What might you need to give up?

3)   Before moving on, spend some time in humble and honest reflection. In scripture we are commanded to love (Mark 12:31) and seek the good of others (1 Corinthians 10:24). Are there patterns of thinking or behaviour that you need to confess, lament, and repent of?
Heavenly Father, I pray for a forging of radical solidarity within the church, my community, my city, and my nation. I come before you, seeking justice, mercy, and relief. For those who are enduring injustice, Father, almighty and righteous judge, may your justice and liberty come swiftly to aid them in their time of need. For those who are ignorant, Father, open our eyes to the needs of others. Grant me the patience to listen, the wisdom to understand, the strength to love, the desire to forgive, the humility to change, the compassion to act, the resolve to persevere. I pray these things in faith and in hope. For your glory, our good and in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Andy Tuck, who leads our Alpha Team.

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