From: Kelsey Chambliss
The story of Stephen’s speech and martyrdom in Acts is a harsh and beautiful example of complete trust in God, even in the worst of circumstances. As Christians, stories of martyrs strike a chord in us as we follow current news articles and realize that human tendencies haven’t changed since biblical times. We mourn over events facing present day martyrs and witness less extreme yet ever-present judgement from society as we let our Christian views be known. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3.12). Thankfully, stories of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, as well as others provide awe-inspiring examples of the power of the Holy Spirit and the beauty of God’s victory in the face of evil. We can take heart in the fact that we’ve been provided with models and lessons to follow as we struggle in our own day-to-day fears of societal judgement. Others have been through much worse and have still come out victorious, thanks to their trust in God. In the midst of death Stephen exhibited a beautiful act of grace by asking God to not charge his murderers with sin. He didn’t allow himself to be overtaken with human judgement towards them. He kept his eyes above and trusted the Holy Spirit to speak through him as he responded to false witness.
I recently picked up Tim Keller’s book “Hidden Christmas” which starts by saying “Christmas is the only Christian holy day that is also a major secular holiday–arguably our cultures biggest. The result is two different celebrations, each observed by millions of people at the very same time. This brings some discomfort on both sides.” However, the book also suggests that the season creates unique room for discussion around this tension, and opportunities to share why throughout the holiday season we celebrate things such as light in darkness, giving of gifts, and concern for the needy. Why not take advantage? These are acts appreciated by non-Christians and Christians alike, although for different reasons. I pray that God creates opportunities for us to explain our reasoning behind these practices, eyes are opened to the history and symbolic meaning behind them, and that we remember that our God is the same God who provided those facing death with immeasurable grace, confidence, and peace. He’s sure to do the same within us time and time again if we let him. He has blown us away many times before. Let us be ambitious in our expectations this new year and fight the urge to “play it safe”.
I’m currently a Master’s student at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and am looking forward to seeing friendly CotC faces during a visit to Boston in January!