Read Acts 7:54-8:1
Read it again, out loud this time.
Read it once more, silently.
There’s a lot to be said about praying for someone when you’re mad at them. It’s supposed to change your mindset on what that person did and how you react to them. That’s one of the things you can control.
I have angered my fair share of people in life and in the course of being a minister. That’s just part of being human, I’m afraid. Thankfully, none of it has been quite to the extent of Stephen.
But Stephen didn’t take a step away from his belief and his faith. Be slow to anger. And he was. He continued to shout out his faith, to hold his trust in our Lord, to stand firm when his life was near its end. He was a true martyr in that respect.
He prayed for them and for himself. He didn’t want these peoples own ignorance to be their undoing, their actions to be held against them on their judgment day. Even though he was dying and knew he was going to die, he didn’t want these people, whom he pitied and loved, to be hurt by their own actions.
That takes an incredible amount of bravery and strength. And you know what? Saul was the one who was there and sanctioned killing Stephen. Saul. You know, the one who soon becomes Paul? Even though Stephen didn’t know what the future held for Saul, he knew that these people couldn’t have this sin held against them. They didn’t know better.
Their eyes hadn’t been opened. Their hearts hadn’t been changed. I’m so happy that God doesn’t hold each and every sin against me, that I am forgiven, loved, and freed. I praise God and thank God every day for that, and for the fact that even though I have angered people, and people have angered me, that in our own human fallibility we are made whole and forgiven only through our similar belief in our Creator.
Only God can forgive us like that. Only God can teach us to forgive others.