I read about Stephen (from Acts 6) in my daily reading today. It was not easy to read. Some people who belonged to a synagogue (and therefore thought of themselves as people of God every bit as much as we in the modern Church think of ourselves as people of God) disagreed with Stephen. (I get the sense when I read the words that the disagreement had to do with Stephen teaching something that conflicted with their long-held beliefs.) The scriptures tell us that “they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke” (Acts 6:10). So, what did they do? Well, instead of listening to the wisdom given to Stephen by God’s Spirit, they secretly found some people to tell lies about Stephen and to “stir up the people and the elders and the scribes,” (Acts 6:12) so that Stephen was tried and eventually put to death by stoning.
This is not easy for me to read because it leads me to ask of the modern Church: are we any different? When someone full of God’s Spirit tries to bring us truth that conflicts with what we think or what we want to believe (rather than God’s truth), how do we respond? Do we spread rumors? Do we work “secretly” (Acts 6:11) as the people in Stephen’s time did to discredit that person? Do we “set up false witnesses” (Acts 6:13-14) to convince others that this person who brings God’s truth must be stopped? Or do we listen for ways that God can help us grow and live into God’s great desires for us (which might be more than what we have been led to believe up to this point in our lives)?
Then I start to wonder: is the most damage done by those who try to discredit a person of God or is it done by those who sit idly by and listen to the false reports but do nothing to stop them, even as the person of God is literally or metaphorically “stoned”?
(FYI – These thoughts are no reflection of anything going on in my life or ministry at the present. As I read about Stephen, my mind drifted to past experiences and to colleagues in ministry, and I simply wondered what word God is speaking to us now through Stephen’s story that will help us live into God’s vision for the future. For whatever reason, I was led to share the questions I wrote.) – Pastor Brad