Different Places, Same People?
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 the 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 11:19-21 (NIV)
Ever notice how we can travel to different cities, states, and even countries, and still gravitate toward the same kind of people that we left back home?
Let’s face it, we all tend to feel more comfortable with persons who fit a certain profile in our minds, and these are the people that we seek out, no matter where we go, often to the exclusion of others. Could this explain why cultural diversity and intercultural exchange are so much at risk in our culture? Could this have anything to do with the demonization of Muslims by some Christians or the attacks upon Jews by some Arabs or the disdain for Hispanic immigrants by some Americans or the fear of “gay culture” by some straight people?
Some of us only build community with our own kind. But thank God, there are others of us who see God in strangers as much as we see God in our own kin.
When the first-century persecution of Christians in Jerusalem forced the early disciples out of the city into different places, not all of them took advantage of the Christian diaspora to reach out to different people. Some, however, decided to cross the cultural divide and build community with the Greeks. It was a bold, risky endeavor, but according to Acts, “The Lord’s hand was with them.”
We can be sure that whenever we break down the barriers that separate us from others and promote human unity in the midst of cultural diversity, God always has a hand in it.
Lord we thank you for sending us to so many different places. Now, please help us to encounter you and embrace you in the faces of all the people who seem like strangers to us. In the name of the Christ who makes us all one, amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Decatur, Georgia.