Monday, August 20, 2012

Turning Conflict into Unity

Monday, August 20
Scripture Reading—Acts 6:1-7

Many of us long to be part of a vibrant, growing church where lives are transformed by grace.  The depiction of the early church in Jerusalem in Acts 6 is of a growing movement that is drawing diverse people into a single community of faith.  How exciting it must have been for these early Christians to realize that their message had power to attract people to their movement!  Though church growth in and of itself does not verify either the truth of the message a church proclaims or serve as the only indicator of its effectiveness, it certainly does seem to indicate that people are responding to good news that can elevate, transform, and reorient lives.  But growth usually brings problems of its own.  Here in Acts 6, the problems the growing church in Jerusalem faced arose because there were two prominent, but distinct groups.  The Hebrews were the Jewish Christians who had come to Jerusalem from the farthest reaches of the earth and whose native language was Aramaic.  The Hellenists were Christians from among the Jews whose native language was Greek.  You can begin to imagine the possibilities for misunderstanding, stress, and conflict that were present.  The situation became very uncomfortable for everyone when the widows of the Hebrews appeared to be neglected in the daily distribution of  bread.  This painfully unfair treatment of a group truly in need of the church’s ministry (widows) could have threatened the unity of this fragile movement.  Instead, people came together and found a solution—deacons were selected to handle the distribution of food.  This allowed everyone’s needs to be met and allowed the apostles to focus their work on prayer and the proclamation of the word.  The result was the continued spread of the gospel and growth of the church.  All churches face challenges.  We see here that the Holy Spirit can lead people to creative solutions that turn problems into possibilities, threats to harmony into opportunities for reconciliation, and competition for limited resources into opportunities for more people to be part of the mission—so that the good news spreads as far and as wide as possible.  Perhaps there are lessons for us from the early church in Jerusalem as we try to accomplish more with less and find unity in the midst of our diversity.

Thought for the day:  Whenever we run into differences of culture, background, or perspective in the church, with God’s help these differences can be opportunities to allow God to bring healing and harmony as well as to discover new ways to be faithful so that the good news continues to spread.

 Prayer:  O God, forgive us when we, intentionally or unintentionally, fail to love and serve one another faithfully and fairly in the church.  Enable us to learn the skill of coming together to find solutions that lead to harmony in our fellowship with one another so that others come to know your love and grace through our witness.  Amen. 

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