The Lord’s church had not been in existence very long when the apostles faced a challenge. The problem that arose was between two different cultures, or as it was between the Hebrew brethren and the Hellenist or Greek speaking brethren (Acts 6:1). The Greek speaking brethren in Jerusalem were complaining against the Hebrew brethren because as Luke describes it “there arose a complaint…because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” Evidently food was being taken by the church to various widows and for some reason the Greek speaking widows were being neglected concerning the receiving of food or at least there was a perception of neglect. What are some of the known facts, possibilities and reactions that took place in the Lord’s church in Jerusalem (Act 6)?
The simple and obvious facts are that there was a complaint from one group of brethren against another, the apostles received and listened to the complaint, and the apostles acted upon it quickly. The passage does not indicate if the Hebrew speaking widows were being “neglected in the daily distribution” intentionally or if it was simply perceived to be such but was not really happening. Whatever the case the apostles took the complaint among brethren as a serious matter seriously and acted upon it giving godly men within the congregation the authority to analyze the situation and correct any oversights and enact any changes that needed to be made so that all of the widows would be treated fairly and that harmony would reign within the Lord’s church.
The apostle Paul faced similar complaints regarding the purchasing and eating of meats that had been offered in sacrifice to idols. There were some Christians that were conscientiously objected to doing such and other Christians viewed the meat simply as meat and felt that they could eat it. Paul wrote to the brethren in Rome; “Receive on who is weak in the faith, but not to dispute over doubtful things…so then each of us shall give account of himself to God…Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:1,12,19). No doubt the different views among the brethren in Rome stemmed from their different personal backgrounds and cultural upbringing.
As the gospel went into all of the world and people of all nations and cultures became Christians there were struggles as there often are today. There will always be misunderstandings, slights, offenses, and ignorance concerning one another from a human standpoint, but in Christ there is a better way because as Paul wrote; “There is neither Jew nor Greek…for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). There were still literally Jew and Greek in a physical way, according to their customs, languages, etc., but spiritually in how they should relate to one another in Christ their way of treating and relating to one another should have changed drastically, and that applies to the church in the twenty first century. There will always be earthly challenges and differences, but may brethren of all cultures, languages, and skin color be neither Jew nor Greek, but one in Christ.