Wednesday Word 5.17.2017

Acts 7:54-60 New International Version 

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furiousand gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit,looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Stop and think about this passage for a moment.  Can you imagine what being stoned would be like?  As close as I could imagine would be the time I took a line drive to the forehead in my childhood softball days.  I dropped like a tree being felled.  So here is a crowd of enraged men hurling rocks at the source of their fury. How horrible! Stephen is still able to shout out describing the vision before him, pray to his Savior, and petition for forgiveness for his brutal executioners.

On the way home from church where we had just contemplated Stephen’s martyrdom, an oncoming driver waited until we were right upon him to turn left in front of us.  To add insult to injury, he barely accelerated, forcing us to hit the brakes or hit him as he rolled across our lane.  I shouted out at the danger and called him a name that cast doubt on his mental capacity.  I relate this story to illustrate the difference between Stephen and me.

In trying to bring the Sanhedrin to a realization of God’s will for his people and the truth of Jesus Christ, Stephen struck deep.  The men were outraged and reacted violently. Stephen had to know that his words would not go down easily, but he was compelled to deliver the message.  The Holy Spirit gave him the words and the courage, and stayed with him until the very end. Stephen’s faith was so deep that with his dying breath he sought forgiveness for his murderers.

I, on the other hand, did not respond to a routine traffic threat with anything remotely resembling grace.  Unlike Stephen, my life was in no real jeopardy (my defensive-driving husband was behind the wheel).  Even so, shock elicited a knee-jerk reaction of contempt and anger.  Within seconds, I thought of Stephen and was ashamed of myself.  Stephen responded to attack with mercy.  Like Jesus.  I react to a momentary incident with outrage and vehement words. More like the Sanhedrin.

What if we learned to be more like Stephen?  We would face adversity with honesty and integrity. We would strive to do what was right. We would allow the Holy Spirit to help us respond to the world around us instead of reacting without thought.  We might become more like Jesus…something to pray about.