Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. But then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia. They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. So they procured some men to say, ‘We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.’ Having in this way turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. There they put up false witnesses to say, ‘This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law. We have heard him say that Jesus the Nazarene is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.’ The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel.
After Jesus had fed the five thousand, his disciples saw him walking on the water. Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves. Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’
‘I tell you most solemnly,
you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs
but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
Do not work for food that cannot last,
but work for food that endures to eternal life,
the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you,
for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’
Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’
But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke
My son is 2 years old now and is at a most impressionable age. He is constantly observing his surroundings, the people around him, and absorbs details like a sponge. It surprises me sometimes when he says certain things, and I wonder where he learnt them from. He is developing his identity and character, making this time of his life all the more important to instil the right values and teachings in him – teachings that I hope and pray as a mother, will carry him well when he heads off to school, and with that, life.
One of my worst fears is school bullying. No parent wants to find out that their child has been bullied, or worse, that their child is the bully – either way it is heartbreaking to hear. I can’t be there for everything that my son will go through. I know that he will have to learn the hard knocks in life, or maybe he simply won’t want to open up to me and I will just have to wait patiently by the sidelines until he is ready to reach out. But I do hope that I can teach him well enough for him to know that if he doesn’t want to talk to anyone, he can at least talk to God and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help.
In Stephen’s situation, false witnesses were called upon to taint his character and speak ill of him. They accused him of blasphemy when they themselves were the blasphemous ones. They did all that because they couldn’t win against him. And so they resorted to verbal abuse and later, as we know, physical abuse and death.
People, especially children, fear being bullied and sadly, most will join in the bullying to avoid being picked on by the bully. Bullies bully because they don’t want to look weak. They need to feel a sense of security, and their strength over a ‘weaker’ person makes their position validated in their minds. What could Stephen have done? He could have fought back. He could have remained a victim. But that would not be the kind of person God called him to be. The Bible tells us not to take vengeance, for “vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Jesus goes on to say that if someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn, and offer him your other cheek too (Matthew 5:39). Jesus challenged us further by exhorting us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Stephen neither retaliated, nor did he become a victim. Instead, he stood steadfast in truth and faith in God, and God was with him.
It pains me to know that this is easier said than done and as humans, we are fragile beings with fragile emotions. My son is not exempt from that, neither is anyone for that matter. But I hope that I can help to instil a faith in him that is strong enough to withstand it if it ever happens. I hope that he understands that he can “call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and [be] saved” from his enemies (Psalm 18:3). I hope that he knows that truth and love will prevail in the end, and that there are more rewards for him to be steadfast on the side of God.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, for our children and all those who are silently suffering their tormentors and bullies – please give them strength, comfort and a listening ear. May their seedlings of faith in you grow as you stand with them, even as others stand against them.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us that there is a better path to follow. It hurts, but you will sooth our hearts and show us a higher purpose, and we thank you for that.