by Andrew Hillard
Well, it was a good run, right? Luke was able to write five full chapters before reporting any conflict among the disciples. By the power of the Spirit, the early church was marked by bold gospel proclamation and tight-knit gospel community. They fearlessly shared the good news of Jesus, and they sacrificially shared whatever they could to take care of one another. Then in Acts 6, the complaining started, and the unity of the early church became a thing of the past, right? Wrong! It’s true that a complaint arose from one group of disciples against another, but it was hardly the end of the church’s unity. For starters, the complaint of the Hellenists was justified. They were speaking up for some of the most vulnerable, those who needed an advocate. But beyond the content of their complaint, what plays out next reveals the heart of their complaint and the heart of the apostles. What could have been a moment of division ultimately led to greater unity and focus as the gospel advanced.
There’s a good chance that you are reading these words on Facebook, and if you are, you won’t need to scroll very far above or below this post to find a complaint. At the very least, you won’t need to scroll very far to find something that makes you want to complain (***Ok…go ahead and test my theory, but come back!***). As different people with different backgrounds and different perspectives, we’re going to see things differently. The fact that another person’s complaint doesn’t fall within my experience doesn’t make it illegitimate. It may just mean that I need to listen longer to truly grasp the heart of the matter. Here, the apostles listened to the complaint of the Hellenists and responded with compassion and wisdom, to the point that their response “pleased the whole gathering” (Acts 6:5). The Hellenists raised their complaint with a genuine desire to be part of the solution, and the apostles heard, understood, and responded with a plan that got everyone involved to meet the moment. Through their example, the Spirit gives us a path to follow when we see things differently.