“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)
In this, the first mention of Hellenistic Jews, we see two groups of people in the early church. The first were the Jews who had generally remained in Judea and spoke the Hebrew language. They were, in fact, called “Hebrews”. The Hellenists were Jews who had become scattered among the Gentiles and who spoke the Greek language. They used the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint. The term “Hellenist” itself means “Greek” or “Greek speaking”. The verb form of the word is “Hellenize”, meaning to adopt Greek culture and ideas. From history, we know that there were dissensions between these two groups of Jews. The Hellenistic Jews were often made to feel like outsiders. Sometimes they became jealous of the Hebrews. Sadly, the divisions did not always automatically go away among members of the two groups who had become Christians. It seems that the problem with the widows in Acts 6 may be indicative that this problem was affecting the young church in Jerusalem. So the apostles chose seven men to attend to the feeding of the Hellenist widows. It is noteworthy that all of the men chosen to do this job had Grecian names. It appears that the apostles acknowledged the differences in the two cultures and made the appointments which would work best. It wasn’t wrong to do that. It isn’t wrong to admit that we come from different cultures and use that fact as we love one another and work together to advance the cause of Christ and the work of the church. Today, if we had an eldership made up of two white men and two men of color and they had a delicate problem to work through with a particular family in the church, it would not be wrong for those elders to consider the color or cultural background of the elders when choosing which shepherds to send to help rectify the problem. Thus, there may be a great advantage to having bishops of all races represented in the congregation PROVIDED they are qualified. But never, of course, should we appoint elders based on race quotas rather than on the biblical qualifications. As was shown in the last post, we must, in one sense, be colorblind. Yet the colorblindness described in Galatians three would not preclude our using our racial differences to maximize our congregational potentials in spreading the good news of Christ. In fact, the unity demanded by Galatians 3 would insist that we value every gift brought by every individual and appropriately use those gifts within the parameters of God’s will for our collective lives of service and our worship to Him. May we view the work of the kingdom with meekness; that is, each of us having a cause much bigger than ourselves.