Sunday, April 24, 2005

Three verses - two challenging questions

"Look," he said, "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. (Acts 7:56-58, NIV)
This is not a popular piece of Scripture - for a bunch of reasons.

First, it begs the question: Stephen died for his faith. Would you? Would I? I wonder - for myself, more than anything else. These days, I don't think there are as many Of-course-I'll-die-for-you-Lord Christians as we'd like to think. (Hell, I don't think there's as many I'll-give-up-my-Lexus-for-you-Lord Christians as we'd like to think...)

But let's break these three verses down to their simplest components:
+ Stephen sees a vision, something no one else can see.
+ The representatives of the institutional church, who have been listening to Stephen for the last 53 verses, cover their ears. They've had enough.
+ With a loud outcray, they rush together against him, and stone him to death, rather than hear any more of what he has to say.
So here, to me, is the first of two really challenging question:

(1) Who are we, as a church, stoning today?

Who are the groups we (as a church or denomination or community) don't want to hear? What are the topics that make us clap our hands over our ears? Is it even slightly possible that the voices we don't want to hear today in the church are as valid and right as Stephen's were?

(2) How many people are going to have to die in order for us to have our spiritual awakening, like those for Saul-who-become-Paul?

Just wondering...


Nick said...

I don't think people can tolerate a merciful God who forgives the child molester as well as the serial rapist.

Michael said...

Nick has a good point. One of Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries revolved around people criticizing the church for being so harsh, only to turn on Father Brown when he offered forgiveness to someone they hated.

As for who we stone, I taught the history of my monastic community for many years. Both our holy founders -- a man and a woman -- were reported to the Inquisition, although they both wound up Doctors of the Church. The Spanish Inquisition, incidentally, did not condemn either of them, although plenty of their fellow Catholics, priests and religious types did so.

I John 4:1 says we should test the spirits. Sometimes we are just in a hurry to stifle them. The Spirit wins out in the end, but that is how martyrs are made. As Stephen was the first to show...

Christian said...

Hey Steve, thanks for the post. I appreciate the way you cut to the chase quickly and readably.

In this particular case, I don't entirely agree with your conclusions (more quibbles than serious differences I hope), but I had enough to say that I posted on it over at SLD. Love to hear any thoughts or comments you have in response.