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.
Stephen was a believer and follower of Jesus in the early Christian Church. He was full of God’s grace and power. Stephen was allowed to perform great wonders and miraculous signs. He did good things and told people the Good News of Jesus.
Some people admired and supported Stephen because they believed in Jesus, the Savior whom Stephen loved and shared. And some people hated him. They spoke against Stephen and argued with him. They secretly convinced some people to spread the lie that Stephen was speaking insultingly and disrespectfully about God’s Word and God. Stephen’s enemies brought him to trial where they continued making their false accusations against him. Stephen defended himself with a long, eloquent, truthful speech that culminated in talking about Jesus. Stephen’s enemies reacted by “gnashing their teeth”, dragging him outside of the city, and stoning him to death.
If you were Stephen, what thoughts would have been racing through your mind as your enemies are hating you, lying about you, and stoning you to death? Wouldn’t you start to think, “This is totally unfair! How could they do this to me? How could God let this happen?”
“Unfair!” From the first time you cried that as a little child to the most recent time “unfair” has crossed your mind, you felt you have a legitimate gripe. But the greatest injustices and unfair treatment have not been done to you, no matter how badly you’ve been hurt and mistreated. With a far greater injustice and unfair treatment you and I have acted toward our holy, caring, loving, and faithful God. Every sin—from the biggest and nastiest to the “smallest” sin—is horribly unfair treatment of our God.
Although Jesus was perfect and holy, he had the guilt and shame of the entire world’s sins placed on him. What all sinners (all people) deserved, Jesus suffered. Jesus was mistreated, crucified, and died. Jesus never did anything wrong. Doesn’t his suffering and execution seem “unfair”?
Stephen joyfully said that by the injustice that brought Jesus’ death, God’s justice was served. Sin was punished in full. Your sins are forgiven.
God’s “unfair” treatment of Jesus changed Stephen’s heart and life. In fact, it even changed the way Stephen viewed and treated people who were being totally unfair. As they hurled murderous stones at him, Stephen prayed: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Who is treating you in a way that is totally unfair? Perhaps it’s someone who instead of hurling stones has chosen to pick up their words and aim for your heart. What kind of words do you speak back to them? What is your prayer for them?
You are someone who has been given the benefit of completely unfair treatment: God punished Jesus, not you. That’s completely unfair, but that’s how much God loves you.
Heavenly Father, I have not treated you like you deserve. Each sin I commit is an unfair way for me to treat my holy and loving God. Thank you for forgiving me through the “unfair” suffering and death of Jesus. Give me the strength to love and forgive others. Amen.
This devotion was selected from the Daily Devotion archive.
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