Acts 7 is kind of long, so let me give you the Reader’s Digest version: Stephen had been accused of speaking evil against Moses and God, and he was being questioned by the Jewish leaders about it. In verses 2 through 53, he’s recapping the entire history of Israel, just to say in verses 51-53, “I’m not the one who’s betraying God. You people are!” As you can imagine, this made the Jewish leaders furious, and they drug Stephen out of the city to stone him to death.
Sounds super encouraging, right? Well… not on the surface. But, I was completely captivated by what Stephen was doing in the last two verses as he was being stoned.
He was completely unwavering in his faith. I mean COMPLETELY! He asks Jesus to receive his spirit, and then he asks for God to forgive the very people who were throwing the stones to kill him.
Now do you see why I was so captivated by this? It’s hard for me to even wrap my brain around that kind of faith. I mean, that’s the level of faith Jesus showed on the cross. In fact, Stephen’s words as he was being stoned echoed some of Jesus’ last words as he was dying. Jesus asked God to forgive his murderers too!
Now, here’ where the Lord really started leaning in on me. Jesus gave us this perfect example of forgiveness throughout his ministry, but especially in those dying breaths. He had endured just about the most agonizing death possible, and he asked God to forgive the people who did it to him.
He also instructed us to offer the same kind of forgiveness to people who have wronged us. Stephen listened to this instruction, and he followed it to a T. He extended unthinkable forgiveness right in the middle of his execution.
And I struggle with forgiving people who have hurt me in some way?
It’s like the Lord was saying, “Seriously, Stephanie???”
Let’s be honest… No one has ever tortured me. No one has ever tried to kill me. I have never even come close to experiencing this kind of pain or hurt. The worst I’ve had to deal with is someone hurting my feelings, being rude, talking about me, making fun of me, etc. Now, the levels to which I’ve experienced these things have varied, and some of the situations seemed pretty bad at the time. But, still… none of them came close to what I was reading about today.
And yet I’m still trying to forgive some of those people.
Message received, Lord! I’m called to forgive like Jesus, and that means there’s nothing that’s unforgivable. He’s forgiven the absolute worst in me, so who am I to withhold that from someone else?
I’m a sinner. That’s who I am.
And the irony in that… Jesus forgives me for it.