“Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.” vs. 60
Stephen had been chosen by the community to help in the distribution of assistance to the poor, but as time went by he found himself the focus of unwanted attention. Some resented his works and words and plotted against him, even bringing false testimony against him…much as the crowds had done earlier with Jesus. And as had happened with Jesus, Stephen was arrested and put on trial, but this time they didn’t call on Romans to act. Taking the law into their own hands, the crowd dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death, the traditional punishment for blasphemy. Stephen becomes the first recorded martyr among the followers of Jesus, and in his dying we see the ultimate cost of discipleship. In those tumultuous times, those who followed Jesus regularly laid their lives on the line…and as they suffered, like Stephen, they often asked God to forgive their tormentors and killers. It’s not likely that we will be called to walk in their steps, though times could always change. But in every age, those who act boldly in the pursuit of righteousness will face opposition. When that happens, though we’d like to punch someone in the nose, the way of Jesus demands that we continue to love and forgive.
Thought for the Day: Do you want justice or mercy for your opponents?