Outsiders reaching outsiders1
Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
- Acts 11:20-21
It took outsiders to reach outsiders.
As the persecuted church scattered away from Jerusalem, the news about Jesus spread. But the news spread only within the Jewish community. Jesus’ original disciples were all Jewish and they shared exclusively with people who shared their own ethnic background.
But some of these Jewish followers of Jesus had unique ethnic backgrounds. They were Jewish but were never fully Jerusalemites. Some were from Cyrene in Libya, just down the road from modern-day Benghazi. Others were from Cyprus, a strategic and Hellenistic island just off the coast of Syria. Both of these groups of Jews would have found at least some cultural affinity and resonance with the life of “Greeks” in Antioch.
These displaced people crossed cultural and ethnic barriers to talk about Jesus. And the Lord’s hand was with them. And a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
The only glimpse of a reason the book of Acts gives us for why these followers of Jesus shared with Greeks (when others didn’t) was that they were from Cyprus and Cyrene. We aren’t told that their ethnic/national origin made them effective witnesses; that credit goes to the Lord. But their background may have influenced their willingness to step out.
What in your background makes you willing to reach out to people who are different from you? What in your background makes you hesitant? How do you think the Lord can use your background as you cross ethnic, cultural, and racial lines with the love of Jesus?