Turn to Jesus

man holding his hands on open book

54 Now when they (the Jewish leaders) heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at (Stephen). 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 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 7:54-60)

As they were stoning him, Stephen turned to the Lord.  Notice that he doesn’t call out for the Lord to stop his execution.  Instead, he simply calls out for forgiveness.  Their forgiveness!  Forgiveness for those who falsely accused Him of blaspheme because he preached the life-giving Gospel of Jesus.  Forgiveness for finding him worthy of death on trumped up charges.  Forgiveness for taking his life in such an unjust and inhumane manner.  He knows that his work on earth is completed.  He has shared the Good News with the people.  He has been rejected, but Stephen still loves these people to whom he was sent.  They have not only rejected the messenger, they rejected the message.  This is exactly what Jesus said would happen.  The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me (Luke 10:16).

We learn from Stephen to turn to Jesus.   Odds are, we are not going to be executed for our faith, but there are those times that living our faith brings with it ridicule and question.  Recently someone asked me how I can be nice to those who have treated me with disrespect.  They questioned my sincerity.  Was I being fake?  Responding to ignorance and spite with love and care is a Jesus-thing.  Jesus is the one who said, You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44).  How can you do that?  Try doing this:

  • Remember that God loves us, not because we are so good, but because He is so good! God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
  • Pray for a heart to love the unlovable.
  • Pray for the person who has opposed or offended you. It’s hard to hate someone when you’re praying for him/her.
  • Say nice things and do nice things for that person. It’s also hard to hate while you’re doing nice things.

So, what if the person continues to offend or shun you?  Keep praying.  It’s important to be the one who loves rather than the one who hates.

Prayer: O Holy Spirit, bless me that I would not harbor hatred in my heart.  Give me the faith to rise above any desires to return spite with spite.  Instead, allow me the privilege of loving the unlovable.  I pray this in the name of the resurrected Jesus.  Amen.


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