Thursday 11 May 2017

Bible Book:

“While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’” (v. 59)

Acts 7:55-60 Thursday 11 May 2017

Psalm: Psalm 2:1-8


I never thought that within my lifetime I would hear of peoplebeing stoned to death in the name of religion. What have we cometo? And it is so easy to say, "Well, this is the work of misguidedfundamentalists of other religions." But fundamentalism of anyreligion can lead us to use Scripture to justify injustice andbrutality. We label others and they can then be treated in wayswhich would otherwise be anathema. If that labelling and treatmentare then backed up by the 'authority' of our particular scripturesthen they are difficult, if not impossible, to gainsay. So we canunderstand how the 'heretic' Stephen ought to be stoned accordingto the perception of those who killed him. What is needful ininterpreting the passage is an admission that it is a warning to beconscious of human brutality that can be fired from age to age.

So that is one side of the story. But there is another. Stephen,like other early Christians, was motivated to share what hebelieved to be the love of God. Put aside thoughts of theResurrection for a moment, and focus on the cross. We sometimescover the death of Jesus with a gloss of theology which seeks towipe away the enormity of what happened. We want to see thistorture and death as part of God's plan. I think that is borderingon the blasphemous. Our difficulty with it is partly why JurgenMoltmann in his bookThe Crucified Godsees the cross as the test ofwhat it means to be Christian. It is that test because no otherfaith movement has been initiated in the death of its deity.Christianity appears to be foolish. But this foolishness is rootedand grounded in the life of a man who told truth to power andoffered love to the loveless. His action caused the religious andsecular authorities to be ranged against him. And in all of this,he never denied love to those who despised, derided and ultimatelyexecuted him. Stephen was following in the same footsteps, no more,no less.

To Ponder

  • Are you ever tempted to violence against those who challengeyour perspective on faith? And how do you resist it?
  • How far are we willing to go, rather than deny God's love forthose who might hurt us?
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