Discrimination and the Kingdom
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Acts 2:42-46 NIV 1984
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, 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 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. Acts 6:1-5a NIV 1984
Bias is simply personal preference. Prejudice is a prejudgment of a person or group. Today it is often negative or critical, and is usually based upon stereotypes. Prejudice is a strong bias or an opinion formed before encountering the facts. If ones prejudice manifests itself in actions, it becomes discrimination.
You’ll note that the apostles encountered a situation among their community of regular discrimination. The Greek speaking Jewish widows (now converts to Christ) were not being given their daily portion of food. They were ‘overlooked’ by the Hebrew speaking Jewish believers who were responsible for the daily food distribution from the common ‘pot.’ This was not an oversight – ‘were being’ implies a continual action – day after day – intentional neglect. This was pure discrimination!
Note that this happened in a community of believers who were sitting under the teaching of the apostles and experiencing many wonders and miraculous signs. But even this amazing environment was not enough to overcome their long-held prejudice and enmity between Jew and Gentile. Something else was needed to bring about the Kingdom change where all would be treated equitably.
Leadership (the Twelve) got involved in bringing about a needed correction. They instructed the community to select seven men ‘full of the Spirit and wisdom’ to manage this daily distribution of food. And note that the seven who were nominated and then finally approved by the Twelve, were all Greeks (at least they all had Greek names). With these seven in charge the problem was solved.
Discrimination due to race, class, or culture is not of the Kingdom. When Kingdom leaders encounter it, they must act to correct it.
As you think about your leadership, is there any sign of discrimination that needs your engagement?