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Focus Verses: Acts 7:51-53
stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just
like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was
there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed
those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have
betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."
ministry in the early church had attracted the attention and opposition
of the Sanhedrin—the ruling council and highest authority in ancient
Jerusalem. His preaching and his persuasive arguments about Jesus were
especially unacceptable to them. When Stephen was called to stand before
them and defend himself, he gave a brief review of Hebrew history with
an emphasis on the many occasions when the Israelites had been slow to
obey God or recognize God's leading. He challenged them to consider
their rejection of Jesus, framing it as the latest misstep in Israel's
long history of disobedience and disbelief.
Response and Action:
the face of abuse and opposition, Stephen stood firm in his faith.
Instead of defending himself or arguing for his own release, Stephen
boldly challenged the Sanhedrin to consider their own history and to
give careful consideration to the claims of Jesus. They were cold and
cruel to him, but he was gracious and forgiving toward them.
God, give me eyes to see the work of Jesus in my world today. Help me
to experience and understand your work and presence in my life. Help me
to stand firm in my faith—to be a bold and effective witness for Jesus
in my world and in my time. If I face disapproval from others, help me
to be gracious to those who oppose me. Amen.
Spiritual Formation Verses: 1 Peter 3:14-16
14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 15 But
in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an
answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you
have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping
a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your
good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Living Gently in a Violent World
by Stanley Hauerwas and Jean Vanier