It is easy to claim discrimination in our time when someone makes fun of us for celebrating Christmas or going to church on Sunday. A fresh look at the first Christian martyr, however, is a powerful reminder of what it means to truly suffer for Christ. In Acts 7, we read:
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Stephen had done nothing wrong, but had offended the court and was considered a blasphemer. According to their law, they had a right to put Stephen to death. They did so after placing their coats under the care of Saul.
Saul would later be known as Paul, the apostle who wrote several books of the New Testament and served as a missionary to the Gentile (non-Jewish) world. Stephen’s death was approved by the man who would later be responsible for leading thousands of others to faith in Jesus. His death led to much life.
We would do well to remember today that our sufferings for Christ, whether death or much lesser forms of discrimination, have the power to influence others toward Jesus, if only we respond as Stephen did, with a heart of love for those who oppose us.
Dillon Burroughs is the author or co-author of numerous books and is handwriting a copy of the New Testament in 2011 at HolyWritProject.com. Find out more about Dillon at Facebook.com/readdB or readdB.com.