If we are true disciples of Christ, followers of the ways of God, we cannot ignore forgiveness being at the core of our code of living. Now please don’t misunderstand forgiveness for doormat or someone who is not able to speak truth in love, people pleasing. Real forgiveness is taking account no wrong suffered. Not ignoring the wrong, but recognizing that you are not the judge and jury. You are the soldier fighting in the war of good versus evil and all accounts of attacks from the enemy are subject to the highest authority.
Let’s look at the life of Stephen, a follower of Christ in the time between the Resurrection and the fall of Jerusalem. Acts shares his story as a man who took the assignment of caring for widows when the burden was too great for the apostles to preach and assume that responsibility. There is no account of Stephen rejecting that assignment or building a case for his credentials being too lofty to do a task that the others had been excused from for a new position. Stephen was a soldier. He spoke and did many signs and wonders when he was told and he humbled himself to care for those who could not care for themselves.
Stephen modeled The Code. Today he is our guide.
“Now, Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called) – Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia – who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke” (Acts 6:10, NIV).
Because Stephen’s opposition could not win the argument against the wisdom of God, his opposition decided to falsely accuse him and drag him to court. An argument that was not flesh and blood, an argument of good versus evil. Stephen understood that it wasn’t against him that these men were fighting; they were fighting the full submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, a fight much larger with much more to lose than just the human life on earth.
“All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15, NIV). And he went on to tell the story of God beginning with Abraham and ending with the Messiah. He shared the testimony of opposition from times past to times present and called them out as opposing God. So, those men did what every sinful man wants to do when they can’t win – they silenced him for good.
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 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” (Acts 7:59, NIV).
As I write this, I am not saying that I’ve mastered this concept, on the contrary, I’m waking up to the understanding that this is what has been modeled for those of us who follow Jesus. Should there be any difference between a soldier in that time and a soldier now? Aren’t we all fighting in the same war?
Are you in a battle that feels bigger than you? It is. Write it down and ask the Lord for your marching orders.
What makes your battles feel so personal? Are they against the Lord or against your own pride?
What do you want to do when you can’t win?
Read the full story of Stephen in the text and then be honest with yourself, did Stephen win or did he lose in your eyes? And, why?
Jesus, you say the real crisis we are in is denial and illusion. I pray that your chosen people, your children, would rise up and fight in the war for you and you alone. Strip us of our own selfish ambition and pride. We’ve been grafted in as your soldiers through pain and anguish. Give us faces of angels, the articulation of the Spirit, and the resolve of our Savior. Amen.