Acts 7:51-53: The unvarnished truth.
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors 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 given through angels but have not obeyed it.”NIV
As I read about Stephen, I get the impression of a wise, godly, intelligent, gracious and radiant Christian. But he was all that he was by the Holy Spirit (6:5, 10) and the Holy Spirit makes the most gracious person brave when such bravery is required. He turns him or her into a roaring lion (Amos 3:8). Note:
• It takes bravery to live the Christian life;
• It takes bravery to speak the unpopular truth, and at times a faithful witness to Christ will have to say what people don’t want to hear. It’s been pointed out that no-one is going to persecute for serving the poor, digging wells and feeding the hungry. But if you state that Jesus is the only way to God, and that all who reject Him will find themselves rejected by God and face His judgment, then it will be another story entirely. On this day, Stephen gave his listeners the unvarnished truth: ‘’Your ancestors killed anyone who dared talk about the coming of the Just One. And you’ve kept up the family tradition – traitors and murderers all of you. You had God’s Law handed to you by angels – gift-wrapped!- and you squandered it!’’ The Message. That kind of talk could get a pastor kicked out of his pulpit with great speed. It cost Stephen his life. ‘My fellow Jews,’ he said in effect, ‘you stand in the inglorious line of those who rejected God’s prophets and Word.You have now rejected the Messiah Himself – the One long prophesied!’ ‘’You always resist the Holy Spirit!’ (31b). To resist God’s Word is to resist His Spirit. Stephen used direct speech, and paid dearly.
• It takes bravery to love your persecutors; to forgive them and pray for them. How like the Lord He loved was Stephen!
• It takes bravery to die well. A believer who was dying wrote to his friends and said, ‘Come and see how a Christian dies!’ The presence and power of the Holy Spirit makes a difference to all life, including its ending.
Prayer: Lord make me brave! If there are things I need to say, help me to say them. And if the words don’t need to be spoken, give me the wisdom to know it. I need both the courage to open my mouth and the wisdom to close it. Help me to know when it’s time to speak and when it’s the time for silence.