The experience of being an outsider
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. 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.
- Acts 11:19-20
Yesterday we saw the moving sidewalk in action: the good news about Jesus was only being shared among the Jews. In today’s passage, we see these followers of Jesus jump off of the moving sidewalk.
The good news gets shared with Greeks.
This barrier had already been broken by the Apostle Peter (see Acts 10). But it’s one thing to hear that a barrier has been broken and another thing altogether to break through that barrier yourself. Peter had the help of a heavenly vision and an angelic visit. The men in this passage had no such advantage.
What was it about these men that made them willing to take a chance to share the good news about Jesus with people who were different from them? One thing the passage tells us is that these men were from Cyprus and Cyrene. They weren’t Jerusalem insiders trying to share with outsiders. They had been outsiders themselves: first, Jews living in Cyprus and Cyrene, then men from Cyprus and Cyrene living in Jerusalem.
There’s something about the experience of being an outsider that prepares you to connect with other outsiders, even if they’re different from you. Maybe you get an extra dose of compassion. Maybe you get an extra dose of courage. Throughout the scriptures God seems particularly involved in the affairs of outsiders.
These men from Cyprus and Cyrene share with the Greeks and also with the Jews. They don’t leave their own people behind when they reach out. They aren’t ashamed to be Jewish. They just know that the good news about Jesus has to get to all people. And they’re given an opportunity.
What have been your “outsider” experiences? When have you been an outsider? How can that experience prepare you to break through barriers?