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A word from Pastor Matt

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Acts 7:59-60, They were stoning Stephen as he called out: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin!” And saying this, he fell asleep.

On the surface, these two verses do not belong together. On one hand, Stephen is being stoned, and on the other hand, Stephen is forgiving the very ones who are slinging the stones. The verses seem ironic. How could someone be praying for the forgiveness of his persecutors? What kind of love is this?

Stephen was obviously hurt by his persecutors that day, but he saw the greater tragedy as his persecutors’ rejection of God. We learn from this passage that there are things much worse than death. Stephen was ready to meet his God, but he knew his persecutors were not. Therefore, he prayed for them. The love for people that Stephen displayed is “Jesus” love. It is the same kind of love that kept Jesus on the cross, and it is the kind of love that says, “I love you even though you reject me.”

The love Stephen showed for his enemies is what Christian love is supposed to look like: a love that desires repentance and reconciliation even for those who hurt us. How can we love people like that? Stephen shows us the answer: Stephen loved his enemies because he knew that God loved them.

Most of us consider things like this and think, “Well, I could never love my enemies, I have a hard enough time loving my friends and family.” What we must remember is that the kind of love Stephen showed first originated with God. If the love originates with us, it bears our human capacity for love. However, if the love originates with God, then it bears God’s capacity for love.

The bottom line is if we are finding it hard to love someone, the problem is that we are drawing on our own capacity for love. Stephen’s story is a testimony for us all that we can love the worst of our enemies if we draw from God’s love. If you are finding it hard to love someone this week, remember Stephen, and remember God gives us the strength to love even the worst!

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."

Psalm 118:24 (HCSB)