While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.” – Acts 7:59-60
I don’t know about you, but it didn’t take long for the news to infiltrate the joy of my Christmas season and jolt me back to the often ugly and frustrating realities of life.
While I was taking a bit of a break from these meditations, this passage from Acts was the reading for the day after Christmas. Really? From the miraculous birth to gruesome martyrdom?
Yep. Why? That’s how life works. We go from blessing to heartbreak in an instant.
Yet, at the same time, a man in the midst of that heartbreak prays for those who are about to end his life. The love of Jesus lives in and through him, and in the same way Jesus prayed for his executioners, Stephen is moved to do the same.
For as many things haven’t necessarily changed through the Christmas season about our world, there is also the hope and truth that hearts can always be changed, and moved to offer prayers for those who persecute and inflict violence and injustice in hopes for a better, more loving world.
For all of the division and anger that exists between far too many people around us as we begin this new year, perhaps we would all do well to embody the spirit of Stephen’s prayer. Let’s not hold things against each other. Rather, let’s pray for one another and embrace the ways we are bound together as Children of God rather than burn down the bridges that connect us.
Creator God, remind us again who we are and whose we are, and that we are called not to inflict an eye for an eye but rather to pray for and to forgive one another as you have forgiven us.