Today we will look at Acts 7:54-8:8
7:54 When they heard these things, they became furious and ground their teeth at him. 55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently toward heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56“Look!” he said. “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57But they covered their ears, shouting out with a loud voice, and rushed at him with one intent. 58When they had driven him out of the city, they began to stone him, and the witnesses laid their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59They continued to stone Stephen while he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60Then he fell to his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” When he had said this, he died. 8:1 And Saul agreed completely with killing him.
Now on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were forced to scatter throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. 2Some devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. 3But Saul was trying to destroy the church; entering one house after another, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
4Now those who had been forced to scatter went around proclaiming the good news of the word. 5Philip went down to the main city of Samaria and began proclaiming the Christ to them. 6The crowds were paying attention with one mind to what Philip said, as they heard and saw the miraculous signs he was performing. 7For unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, were coming out of many who were possessed, and many paralyzed and lame people were healed. 8So there was great joy in that city.
Saul was a nasty one. Apparently presiding over the stoning of Stephen and hunting other believers down throwing them into prison. Why? Because they believed in the fulfilment of something all the Jews had been foretold, the coming of the messiah. Tempting to relate this incident with what we witness today in the black lives matter movement. We have injustice happening at the hands of those who are supposed to be upholding it. They say they believe in equality for all but do not live it. Saul and the other leaders of the faith community said they believed the messiah would come, but would not live that way. Violence ensues in both cases. Injustice abounds.
I see in some, anger building over our current restrictions, the forced isolation and the loss of accountability for our government. The freedom of our chief elected official who wants to keep us bound. Injustice, anger waiting for a trigger to explode. Elected officials and persons in authority need to be very wise and careful in their steps or there could be an eruption of violence that nobody wants.
There is one major difference. Not in the actions of those in power, but in those who are oppressed. Stephen does not strike back. He prays for his attackers instead. I am sure that there are very many in our current struggles that behave as Stephen does and pray for those who are doing the oppressing. And it is they who are the real heroes in these days. Those who stand for what they believe, but only respond with love and care for those who oppose them. That is the response that changes everything. That is the response that brings hope and life. That is the response that reveals the truth, calls out the sin, offers a way forward and freely gives grace. That is the way of Jesus.
How are you responding to your own situations?