Under Pressure

Have you ever had someone get really mad at you…I mean, really mad, to the point that they seemed like they were snarling? I’ve only had that happen a few times in my life, as I recall. It’s not pleasant, is it? What about a whole group of people, snarling and raging and in your face with anger…ever experience that? How would you feel in a situation like that? What would you want to do? Calm the situation by trying to reason with the people? Run?

I can think of few things that seem more frightening than an angry mob.

This Sunday we’ll be reading Acts 7:54-8:3 in our study of the Ragamuffin Revolution – the book of Acts.

We’ll continue the account of Stephen, one of the first “deacons” – a person who was attending to the needs of the church community. In the story so far, he’s been accosted by his fellow Jews for his preaching of Jesus as Messiah, he’s been brought before the Sanhedrin to stand trial for false charges that he is trying to introduce a whole new religion among the Jewish people, he’s preached the longest sermon in the whole New Testament…and in this section, we’ll see the resulting action of that sermon (spoiler: it is not repentance and acceptance).

As you read about what it is that Stephen suddenly sees in v56, how would what he perceived have helped him endure this unjust treatment?

Stoning is a grizzly business and a brutal way to die. Astonishingly, it is a punishment still meted out by some nations to this day. Stephen was likely young…this would have taken some time to bring him down, hence the men strip off their coats because this type of murder is a sweaty business.

What do you think of the young man in v 58 who is more interested in the safety of the coats than the man in the ditch being pummeled mercilessly by rocks? What should God do to a scoundrel like that?

In v59 Stephen prays for himself. In v60 he prays for someone else. Who does he pray for? What does he pray for them? Who does this remind you of? Do we see a pattern that deviates from the world’s normal patterns in this? How does it challenge us in our own heart’s response to the villainy we see perpetuated against our fellow believers in other parts of the world?

Chapter 8 brings us back to that young man again, the one who guarded the coats. Does he seem to feel bad for what happened to Stephen? He seems pretty sold out to his destructive worldview and the path it puts him on. What do you think God should have done to him in light of his continuation of this wicked intent?

Oh yeah…and where do you think Christianity would be without that young man?

This will not be an easy study….just sayin’. Maybe this article (which is more like a punch in the head) can help us get ready for it.

2 thoughts on “Under Pressure

  1. Well, thought provoking for sure!!! That article is so easy to relate to…He’s right, it is so much easier to forgive an offense, a betrayal or something maybe not so heinous as someone murdering your spouse, your friend or child..How can that possibly be forgiven??? I think Stephen’s glimpse of the one who was able to pull this off, was instrumental in his response. I’m sure the sight of Jesus reminded him of the right reaction….Stephen knew where he was headed, pain was not the end of his story, just as it wasn’t for his King. Jesus appeared in Stephens pain enabling him to have the right perspective. He in the strength of his savior showcased the heart of Christ for the meanness of mankind echoing forgiveness in the face of cruelty. Saul, and many others witnessed Stephen’s response… We don’t know what effect this counter cultural reaction had on the others in the crowd. But we do know that very likely it was a seed planted in the heart of future writer of most of the New Testament. What a HUGE little detail we have with the mention of Saul’s name here. It’s the hope in the midst of horror…Prior persecutor turned preacher, Paul’s story brings significance to Stephens death sentence. Pain is always purposeful. No matter how evil, cruel or anti-christ people may seem His limitless love can set a whole new story in motion in their lives. Given the potential of such sacrifice, let’s pray for those who persecute our brothers speaking those same supernatural words in His strength..

  2. I also identify with this struggle. But it occurs to me that God is not requiring us to be emtionless or unfeeling, or stoic, or Spock-like in the face of such atrocities. Anger at evil is something God himself expresses. The key for us, I believe, is to be willing to turn our anger over to Him, who alone can execute justice. ” Vengence is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”. In faith then we can choose to step up to the part Jesus has given us- to love our enemies. The more we choose to do this, despite our feelings, the deeper its reality takes hold in our hearts.

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