Disrupting Default Segregation
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.
- Acts 11:19
When the church in Jerusalem is persecuted, thousands of believers flee hundreds of miles to save their lives and families. But persecution can’t keep them from sharing the good news about Jesus. They talk as they travel and the word spreads with them.
One feature in today’s passage really strikes us: look at how selective the followers of Jesus are when they decide to spread the news about Jesus. The church in Jerusalem had been exclusively Jewish … no Gentiles included. In their diaspora, the followers of Jesus maintained that segregated momentum.
The irony is that the very community to whom they were witnessing was the community who was persecuting them. At this stage in the life of the church, their violent opposition came almost exclusively at the hands of the Jewish religious authorities.
There’s something in us that defaults to segregation. Ethnic segregation, socioeconomic segregation, political segregation … left to our own devices we’ll surround ourselves exclusively with people who look, spend, and think just like us. Segregated communities are comfortable, efficient, and blown to pieces by the kingdom of God.
In our last series we talked about God making us into a Noble Cedar church—a uniquely desegregated place that welcomes all kinds of people to come together around Jesus. Today in this passage, we want to recognize that this runs contrary to our fallen nature, and we need God’s help to make this a reality.
We’ll spend more time this week looking at how God opens doors for connection as his kingdom invades segregated spaces, but today we want to invite you to engage with Jesus about your own experiences of segregation.
Look at your close relationships. Where do you see similarity and diversity? Where have you consciously sought to segregate yourself or your family from others? Where have you consciously sought to connect with people who are different from you?