My job was to care for the widows. Our church was growing so quickly and it was a joy to see that together we could care well for those who were more vulnerable. I would help distribute food particularly to our new Christian sisters – Grecian and Hebraic Jewish ladies who had come to faith and needed material support – we wanted to make sure no one was overlooked.
It was privilege to serve in this way, because it meant that the apostles were freed up to focus on what we all knew was a priority – prayer and the ministry of the word of God.
I got myself into a little bit of a fix, I wish it didn’t happen – a fight that was blown way out of proportion.
I managed to upset the Jewish leaders around the synagogue. I know, it was part of Jewish law that the widows and more vulnerable should be cared for by the Synagogue, but that didn’t appear to be happening – they seemed so distracted making laws and then enforcing them on everyone! Meanwhile, these widows were being neglected, so we stepped in. Turned out that was not a particularly popular move for the establishment!
They all got into a bit of a huff! They accused me saying ‘We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God’. They stirred up the people and some stood up and suggested that I was speaking against the temple and against the law – I was just trying to distribute food!! But what took the cake was that they misquoted my Lord Jesus and made it sound like he was a troublemaker!
I had to say something!
So before them all – including those big wigs, the high priest and teachers of the law, I tried to explain where they had got it so wrong. They didn’t seem to want to accept what I was saying. It was as if they had already made up their minds!
I told them how important Abraham was and about the promises that Yahweh made to him about a new land. I mentioned Joseph and rehearsed some of their own history back when they were in Egypt. I thought that would remind them of how God has kept his promises. Then I mentioned Moses. Given that they were accusing me of speaking against Moses, I thought it was important that they could see that Moses did exactly what God asked of him and even though the people of Israel took a bit of convincing, God still kept his promises – which was the reason that they eventually entered into the land that Abraham was first told about! It was there that eventually King Solomon built the temple – the temple that they were accusing me of speaking against. Don’t get me wrong, I think the temple is a beautiful building and I know it’s important, but it seemed to me that God did so much for his people before the temple even got built!
The establishment have lost sight of what was really important! They seemed more concerned with buildings or laws, and not very concerned with what Yahweh had done for them or what Yahweh asked of them. So I told them off!
‘You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? they even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him – you have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it!’
That did not go down so well!
As they started throwing rocks at me, I looked up to heaven. It was wonderful. There was my Lord standing at the right hand of God – so I prayed ‘Lord Jesus receive my spirit, and Lord, please don’t hold this against them’.
Inspired by Acts 6-7
For more in this Series:
Resilient in Suffering
If you are going to live for Christ, are you willing to make a stand?
Living for Christ will involve Suffering!
Strategies for Resilience in Suffering
Suffering and Judgement
How does a Christian become more resilient in suffering?