Tuesday 10 May 2011

Bible Book:

] gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." (v. 55)

Acts 7:51 - 8:1a Tuesday 10 May 2011


Every teenager knows about peer pressure. It is one of the mostpowerful influences upon their lives. For many it is also aconstant pressure in adulthood. To resist strong peer pressuretakes courage and assured conviction. Today's passage is one suchinstance. Stephen, a leader in the early Church concluded a longspeech (Acts 7:2-53) using uncompromising language toaccuse Jerusalem's Jewish authorities of dereliction of duty. Tospeak in this way was blasphemy to the ears of the Sanhedrin, thecourt of the elders. They were, not unsurprisingly, enraged withhis claims. The result was Stephen's death sentence bystoning.

Stephen was not someone who conformed to peer pressure. He wouldrather die than compromise. His last words (verses 59-60) were aprayer for himself and for his executioners. His words echoed thosespoken at Jesus' death (Luke23:34) one significant difference. Whereas Jesus committedhimself to God in the words of Psalm31:5, Stephen committed himself to Jesus. These were the veryearly days of the Church and Luke (the writer of Luke's Gospel andActs) recorded the name of Jesus being invoked in a way usuallyassociated with God.

Stephen was the first known Christian martyr. Since then there havebeen many more. On the westfront of Westminster Abbey. there are ten statues of Christianmartyrs of the 20th century. They include Maximilian Kolbe fromPoland, Janani Luwum from Uganda, Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Germanyand Lucian Tapiedi from Papua New Guinea. In the centre of Londonthey are a silent reminder that followers of Christ still resistpressures to conform.

But not all is doom and gloom. Luke now introduces Saul (verse 1)as one who observed and agreed with the execution. Many havewondered what impact seeing the death of Stephen might have had onSaul. Did it lay the seeds towards his later conversion? How muchdid the words of Stephen strike home within the heart of Saul? Itis perhaps worth considering what would be different if Stephen hadgiven in to peer pressure.

To Ponder

What advice would you give to someone who isfeeling undue peer pressure?

It is not always easy living with people who willnot compromise. What are the things that are not worth fightingover?

Why do you think Stephen committed his Spiritinto the name of Jesus and not God?

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