Acts 6:1ff gives a brief insight into life in the early church. There is a daily distribution of food, which leads one to assume this group was poor and lived communally. The love of one for the other was a stunning witness to the Ancient world. However, this love was still human love, how ever much the Holy Spirit was at work among them. We read that the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews that their widows were being neglected in that daily distribution. Racial tensions!
The apostles of Jesus respond by having that community choose seven men of good standing to serve as "table waiters" (deacons). One of them, Stephen, becomes a central figure for a long narrative with an extensive proclamation of salvation history and the ultimate martyrdom (with abundant parallels to Jesus). The spread of the faith and growth of the church are the main point, but I am drawn to the tension between Hebrew and Hellenist.
Recently, another tragic shooting death has left a family mourning the loss of a young son and a community in chaos. While many are full of sadness and pain, other have turned to rage. Riots with mass looting, a too common feature of our daily life, are seen as an expression of criminality or despair at injustice, depending on who is analyzing the events.
Back when I was a counselor of teens, I had the experience of being present when three of my kids were kicked out of school. They were troubled young men and had anger issues. They were in a verbal conflict with the principal (a Black man) and the Assistant (White). The three boys were Black. In my opinion, the adults were fair and patient and the young men were disrespectful and deserved their fate. The boys claimed that they were unfairly treated and being picked on. (as they refused to go to class and were walking the halls it seems that it was fair)
However, all three of these kids were raised in negative circumstances. The mothering they received was poor. There had been abuse and a plethora of bad role models. Fathers were rarely part of their growing up. There are lots of reasons (excuses) for why they turned out as they did. They also made choices, many times bad choices, which added to the load of problems. I know that they were difficult, verbally aggressive and physically violent. They were also sad, lonely and lost. My work with them, in the end, may have made no difference. I do not know. What I do know is for one year of their life there was an effort made...
The policeman, the young man, the family, the communities all have different perspectives on what took place and why, what should happen and how. Like ancient Hebrews and Hellenists, we see things from our own community perspective (racially and politically). The truth is hard to come by. There is blame to go around for everyone. Tragedies are generated by all manner of circumstances and choices.
In the end, it is the willingness to serve and die (Stephen) which is the best witness to love and truth. Yet it takes a faith of a different kind to make such a choice.