“Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
You can read the full account about Stephen in Acts 6 & 7. I’ve been thinking a lot about how things haven’t changed much from the time when the Jews were persecuting Christians to how we persecute today. Close your eyes and imagine being an innocent person standing in the midst of a crowd throwing stone after stone, each hitting your body with a terrible force. The pain grows. You have nowhere to turn. Your legs give out. A huge stone hits your head and you can no longer even kneel upright. You are down on the ground, your body twisted in pain, blood blinding you. But still stone after stone heap upon your body burying you as you slowly lose the battle and then draw your last breath. Do you forgive your attackers like Stephen did?
The Jews believed they were right. They believed the prophets were blaspheming God. They felt justified in casting stones.
But we Christians today look back and can’t believe how something like this could happen. We believe it couldn’t happen in this day and age.
Let me ask you a question. Do you believe in second chances?
As I sip my cup of tea, let me tell you about my brother and sister in Christ. I’ll call them Jerry and Hannah. Jerry and Hannah grew up as neighborhood children who played together. Life took them in different directions. Jerry made some wrong decisions and so did Hannah. When Jerry was drawn into the world of drugs, he made some very bad decisions. He was at rock bottom when God brought Hannah back into his life. She stood by him when no one else would.
Fast forward. Jerry got clean. Jerry found God, Who had been waiting for him to reach out and be saved. Hannah went on her Emmaus walk while Jerry went to prison. When Jerry walked out of the prison early for good behavior, he, too, went on the Emmaus walk. Jerry and Hannah got married in the church. Then hard times hit and they were homeless. Hannah was pregnant. Jerry couldn’t find a job because he was a convicted felon. The only family they had was their church family.
Hannah is currently sleeping in a homeless shelter. Jerry is sleeping in their car at night in the church parking lot. He works part time cleaning the church. But good Christian people look down their noses. They don’t believe he should be working in the church. He is a felon! He is not to be trusted! He was a drug user! Maybe he was a drug dealer!
Jerry and Hannah are trying to get help through the system, but things are moving slowly. When the baby is born, the Salvation Army will help to get them into a house, but Jerry has to have a job which pays enough to cover the rent. But few companies wants to hire a felon.
I hired Jerry to do yard work for me. He cleaned my front garden area, which is HUGE, of every single weed. He raked up all the old mulch and leaves. Then spread mulch. My garden looks fantastic. During the five hours it took for him to do this, Hannah and I sat in lawn chairs and talked. I learned more about them and their childhood. I heard stories about when Jerry was down and out. Jerry shared funny stories and some sad stories about prison life. We laughed together and became better friends. Better Christian friends.
They are not making excuses for the mistakes they made. They love God and are trying to make a new and better life for themselves. Jerry has health issues and most likely won’t live to be an old man. He wants to do right by his wife and the son she carries. He works hard at whatever job he is given to do. He takes pride in doing things right. He needs a break. He needs a second chance.
It breaks my heart to see friends who claim to be loving, caring Christians…those who go home to a nice warm and safe place to sleep…those who have food to eat and don’t worry when they will get their next meal…use their tongues to stone Jerry, just like the Jews used stones to kill Stephen.
I wonder if they ever think about what Jesus would do?