God had commanded His people to care for the orphans and widows, and this new movement, called The Way by some, which based itself on following Jesus Christ, sought to obey this law. But they did so based on the lenses they had developed, been given, grown up with. They cared for the Jewish widows “in obedience to the law”, but neglected the Hellenistic (non-Jewish) widows. This was normal for a Jewish movement, but was not normal for followers of God.
And so the Hellenistic Jews complained. And now the leadership had a choice – do they follow their expectations and convince themselves that the old ways of following the Law still held, or do they follow the law of love and change the expectations? Was following Christ about obeying the law as they always had or following Christ’s new law of love in a new way?
Thankfully, they chose the new way, the new Way of Christ’s love, and appointed the first deacons in history. These 7 men were tasked with caring for EVERYONE, not just the obedient Jews. And because they did, their reputation spread and their numbers grew.
We face this choice again and again in our faith. Some have posited the choice in terms of Pietism vs. Evangelicalism. In the Covenant, we are made up of both. Evangelicals focus on belief and obedience. This side asks, “Where is it written?” first. Pietists focus on relationship and love. This side asks, “How’s your walk with God?” first. We need both sides, but which will take dominance? For the early church, their Pietism led the way. Will we do the same?