Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Stephen's Short History Lesson

"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it." - Stephen in Acts.

Apparently the apostle Stephen hadn't read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. My guess is he tossed the book over his shoulder with "what a bunch of uncircumcised hogwash" and then picked up the book How to Instigate a Riot and Get Yourself Brutally Murdered in Under Ten Minutes.

I've got to hand it to Stephen, he was bold. He didn't back down from the truth, however much it hurt (or made people want to kill people).

I've always been struck by this passage (there's a really lame pun in there that I shouldn't even bring to light) by Stephen's skill at ticking people off. But I've also been amazed at his short history lesson, which sets the scene for his tirade.

Stephens been accused of speaking against Moses and the Law, and Stephens like "Oh yeah, I'll speak on Moses and the Law for a while." And the irony is Stephen's face was glowing "like the face of an angel." Does that remind you of anyone?

What took someone like Stephen, who took off in a blur in the Garden of Gethsemane and made him this pillar of Godly strength and true righteous zeal? Only the power of God.

"How does this passage make me feel?" Umm, sort of like a chump.

I think the reason I've always been so mesmerized by this episode is that I can barely relate. I like to say the stuff that people want to hear. Got itching ears? I'll scratch them. I'm a people-pleaser. Especially when those people are Ancient Near Eastern religious zealots with rocks and mean expressions.

Also am I a rock tosser? I guess I am. I tend to turn people off when they strike a little to close to home. My walls go up and I begin to figure out some way to dismiss them. In my defense, none of those people have glowing faces.

But this is really making me think of how I listen to those in spiritual authority over me. Do I really listen? Or do I simply pick apart their message when the over-all gist was just making me feel a bit too uncomfortable.

I don't know. Stephen is a healthy, or unhealthy, reminder of speaking the truth even when it hurts real bad. It makes me think that if the same Spirit that was alive in Stephen is alive in me, God will help me to swallow the truth even when it doesn't taste so good.

So, sorry for all the rambling, but this passage has always popped out of scripture with it's captivating visual of someone saying something that gets them killed, immediately. May God give us the courage not to look to go around ticking people off, but when the Spirit kicks in, humbly speak with our eyes on something better: a better hope, a real home and a real God. I think that would make Stephen proud. Also I think he'd be pleased if I didn't pull the fuse our of every message I hear.

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