We are all familiar with admonitions in scripture against complaining, grumbling, disrespecting authority, sowing discord, etc. But today we are focusing on a well-founded complaint of discrimination that yielded good fruit for the body of Christ. Yes, there is a place for complaining and questioning the status quo in the body. There are big examples, like Martin Luther, who listed his complaints against the church he served on the “internet” of his day: the church door. And there are less dramatic, yet no less important, examples such as the women of Acts 6.
In the early church, Acts tells us, members sold their possessions and gave to the apostles to distribute to those who were in need. There was in the church a population of widows of Hebrew heritage and a population of widows of Greek heritage. Daily, these widows with no family to look after them, would receive food from the church. Whomever was responsible for distributing the food neglected the Greek widows in favor of the Hebrew ones.
The other Greek believers saw what was going on and brought the issue before the apostles. In wisdom, the apostles saw the need for a new layer of leadership in the church that could take care of issues such as this, men who could be entrusted to fairly and faithfully administer the church’s resources: deacons. The godly response to the complaint on behalf of the Greek widows would ensure they were no longer discriminated against.
Too often in the church, we may tend to ignore injustices and sin for fear of distracting from the gospel. And in the end, it’s that same injustice and sin that we kept quiet for so long that eventually discredits the gospel in a much worse way. A recent example is the very public demise of Mars Hill Church and the fall of it’s discredited pastor Mark Driscoll.
I’ve been researching this topic lately for a paper, and as you might expect, many, many people knew things at the church were headed down a destructive path long before the headlines hit (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/16/us/mark-driscoll-evangelical-megachurch-mars-hill.html). When influential people inside the church began to speak up, they were terminated, shunned, and punished. The destructive policies they warned against were put in place and ultimately brought down the church seven years later in a spectacularly public collapse that damaged everyone associated with it.
What if the discrimination these widows faced were allowed to continue because no one wanted to “bother” the apostles with such a “small” matter and divert attention away from the meteoric growth of this new movement? What if it made the apostles or the church itself look bad? The temptation to favor the Hebrew believers over the gentile believers was a real temptation for the Jewish apostles, as we see in Peter’s actions as recorded in Galatians 2. Loving the church can mean pointing out the foxes that are spoiling the vineyard.
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Your Turn: Have you ever had a time that you had to speak the truth in a hard situation? What did God show you during that season? Share what you learned in Leave a Response. ~ Joni