by Christopher Harbin

One Body without Distinctions
Christopher B. Harbin
Acts 11:19-30

How often do we think of one or another group of people as alien to ourselves? We divide the world into classes and categories of people, so as to distinguish those who are our people and those who are not. Partly, we do this to distance ourselves from one or another class of people. Partly we do this so that we do not feel compelled to understand and help others. Partly we do this to protect ourselves from the inconvenience of the gospel calling—us to care for all as though they were our siblings or children. Is it really possible to treat all as though we were only one body, even when there are people who are so different from ourselves?
The book of Acts recounts, according to Luke, what Jesus continued to do through the Holy Spirit. Luke tries to retell the history of the church in its expansion from Jerusalem throughout the whole of the Roman Empire, or as we might say, the entire known world of his time. He had already dealt with the questions of Jesus leaving the world physically. He had already described the initial development of the gospel in the city of Jerusalem and its surrounding areas. He had described how the gospel arrived in Samaria and how Peter had taken the message to God-fearing Gentiles like Cornelius.
At each point of transition, there was some conflict or disquieting, as one or another barrier was cross, leaving some uncomfortable. On incorporating some new group, the culture surrounding the gospel suffered transformation. There where conflicts between Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews within the Jerusalem church, which gave way to electing the first deacons to supervise the distribution of food. There were worries about the arrival of the gospel in Samaria and more problematic considerations when Peter decided to go to Cornelius, who was not a Jew. It broke with rules of Jewish tradition that did not allow him to enter and eat with people not of the chosen ...

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