Saturday 25 October, 2014
Acts 6:8-15, 7:54-60
LIVING WITH THE CONSEQUENCESOpposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen ... These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.(part vss 9-10)
Some scholars think that these opponents of Stephen, as expatriates from a very tight-knit community, were particularly ardent in their faith and determined to preserve its purity. They would listen to no arguments, make no compromises; Stephen was wrong, and if they could not out-talk him, they would resort to force.
So a wise and gifted disciple who would have been invaluable to the Early Church comes to a tragic end.
The key to understanding his story, though, is to realise that he could not do anything else.
We sometimes like to think that, if only people could be brought together round a table, there can be compromises and everyone can agree. Our differences are because we haven’t taken time to grasp someone else’s point of view; really we are all the same.
It’s true that talk is good, and that many misunderstandings between people of different faiths or among people of the same faith are just that. In the end, though, we have to be willing to say ‘I believe that this, not that, is true’ – and live with the consequences. Stephen, sadly, died with the consequences.
This story also makes us ask where we fit into it. Are we on Stephen’s side, bravely standing up for what we believe no matter what it costs? Or are we on the side of those who are violently hostile to a new idea and prepared to do anything to defeat it?
The Bible rarely leaves us entirely comfortable.
Prayer † Loving God, help me to have the courage of my convictions. When I talk with those whose faith is different, let me always remember who I am and whom I serve. Amen.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) is a fellowship of 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 churches in 107 countries. Its member churches are Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed and United churches with roots in the 16th-century Reformation led by John Calvin, John Knox and others. WARC has a small secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.