I can’t count the number of times I ask my kids a question that I already know the answer. My title question is no different. Of course you have been wronged, we all have. But the real question should be; Do you always do the right thing when you are wronged? I’m pretty sure we all would say no to that.
So what is the right thing? Many would say that it’s not always obvious, not always so black and white. But Stephen gives us a wonderful picture of how we should respond when we are wronged, even to the end of his life.
The scene is that Stephen has been arrested and accused of seeking to change the customs of Moses. Ironically his defense says absolutely nothing about him or what he is accused of, but is simply a history lesson. In Acts 7:1-53, he summarizes most of Genesis and Exodus. He reminds them of all the people turning against Moses then and insinuates they are doing the same thing now. This defense infuriates them to the point they stone him to death.
But his response, even in the midst of the stoning, is incredible and powerful forgiveness. “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59-60)
What are two powerful lessons we can learn from Stephen in his final moments of life? First, the Bible is sufficient for everything. His only defense was to turn to the scriptures. Second is there is no action someone can commit that is beyond forgiveness. Even an unjustified painful death sentence of stoning, Stephen asks God to not hold this sin against them. Stephen is literally pleading with God for the lives of his killers, while they are killing him. WOW!
Here are a few things I am 100% convinced of. If you are reading this…
- you have been wronged before.
- you have never been wronged as much as Stephen.
- you will be wronged again.
The question that remains, will you be able to plead for the eternal life of your wrong doer even in the midst of them doing you harm? The answer is 100% no. Surprised at that answer? The truth is, that Stephen was not able to either. You see, the key verse is just a few verses before where it says he was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:55). Neither Stephen or you or I are capable of offering up such amazing forgiveness in this situation. But when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it is He who is in us that does the forgiving.
Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Stay focused on His promptings and guidance. Paul gave the church of Ephesus these same instructions.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Eph 5:18-21
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