Bigotry, prejudice and discrimination make an unwelcomed appearance in the first-century church. It happened right in the middle of miracles, signs and wonders, and multitudes coming to Christ: “… 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, NIV).
Had I been in charge that day, I might have preached on the evils of bigotry, then recruited volunteers to collect day-old bread from local bakeries and appointed a few administratively gifted people to ensure the food would be distributed fairly.
I am glad I was not there that day. I would have made a mess of things.
The issue wasn’t food distribution. The issue was overcoming an obstacle to the gospel’s advancement. Rather than addressing the people’s prejudice, the apostles engaged in serving as the means of dominion. They practiced “overcoming evil with good.”
The Hellenists and the Hebrews had to select from among themselves “seven men … who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3, NIV). These men had to be Spirit-filled, wise and trusted, because their service would address deep-seated issues of prejudice, bigotry and discrimination.
In caring for those on the edge of survival, we often face the darkest parts of our humanity and the overwhelming lack of material resources. No wonder these men needed to be “of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3, NKJV).
Kingdom expansion was immediate: “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7, NIV).
Reflecting on this experience, I ask myself:
- What crisis do I face that is really a Holy Spirit opportunity disguised in human brokenness?
- Am I making room for the miraculous in the daily demands of ministry?
- What lifestyle disciplines do I need to cultivate that will result in me being full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, grace and power?
- Are there any long-term, latent issues in my heart that are hindering kingdom expansion?
Acts 6 powerfully illustrates that there is always more going on than what I see. Undercurrents, agendas and human frailty mingle with the goodness and blessing of God.
Like the disciples, we need men and women “to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” who can help us face our issues and move forward. Jesus, help me to be one of them.
Jeff and Debbie Roper are Foursquare Missions Europe Area Missionaries.
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