8 Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. 9 But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. 10 None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.
11 So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God.” 12 This roused the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council.
13 The lying witnesses said, “This man is always speaking against the holy Temple and against the law of Moses. 14 We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 At this point everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s. Act 6:8-15 NLTStephen was described as a man full of God's grace and power! That is quite the description. Let's take a section of this passage and talk about if it happened in today's world.
Stephen would be considered a motivational speaker and life coach in 2019! The reviews about him could read like this, "Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power. A real miracle performer!"
"Stephen's pod casts are so informative and inspirational! You need to follow Stephen today!"
"Stephen is wise beyond his years. Under Stephen's coaching and mentoring, my life was transformed."
But then something Stephen said took a wrong turn. He spoke against something politically incorrect and the local celebrities got angry! One person went and watched him and took out their phone and recorded just part of something he said and hurried and posted it! Then another person took a quote out of context and wrote a story around it and posted it on his blog. Others started tweeting about the travesty. Before long it made it to a post on Facebook and someone else created an incriminating picture that they photo shopped and then shared it with the original post. Practically overnight the story went viral! People heard how Stephen had treated the political figures and had spoken out against the local minorities. Oh this generated an outcry from all over the country! Soon the local radio stations, talk shows, the AP wire and blogs all shared the story. Well meaning people would copy, paste and share it. They didn't do their fact checks, they just believed the thread at face value and were outraged! Soon it even started to spread among the religious community, "Did you hear about what that Stephen was saying??? He is changing laws and ..." False witnesses would come forward to testify against "something he had said or did before." Stephen, in today's world, would have been crucified on social media. From hero to zero.
Stephen, the man full of God's grace and power, who performed amazing miracles and signs, was now arrested and being brought before the high council. In verse 15 it says that when they stared at Stephen his face became as bright as an angel.
The accusations didn't persuade Stephen to change his story. He took advantage of the platform (being brought before the high court) and shared the history and testimony of God's greatness. Later in chapter seven (please read it!) it says that what Stephen said infuriated the crowd and they placed their hands over their ears and rushed at him. They drug him out of the city and stoned him to death with the approval of a young man named Saul. The whole time Stephen didn't recant or change his story under peer pressure. He spoke the truth and did what was right. He kept his focus on Jesus.
When I read this I thought to myself that today it really isn't much different. Except we have the internet and social media to do the bullying (oh I know you would hate to use the word "bully" in this setting) but isn't that what a lot of people do on social media? They can hide behind their laptop screen, in the privacy of their own home and click copy and paste (without even checking to see if a story is true) and hit publish! I see well meaning Christians spreading gossip and false accusations about other Christian ministries before fact checking simply because someone posted a partial truth or even an out and out lie but phrased it in a way that someone wanted "to share it to warn others." We might not literally kill someone but I have seen people ruined so quickly.
Stephen was an integral man, full of God's grace. He didn't cower or recant the truth. He faced his accusers and still stood firm in his representation of Christ. I think that we will see more and more of this as time goes on. Please fact check stories before sharing them. Don't hurry and share because a friend said to share it. Chances are that your friend didn't fact check the story either.
Stephen kept his focus on Jesus even when he was facing death. May I be so noble, to keep my focus locked on Jesus in any circumstance. Did his faith in Jesus spare him death? No. They stoned him. Was it all in vain? No! The young man who gave his approval to the stoning? His name was Saul who would later become Paul the apostle. You see Stephen's testimony planted a seed. His firm conviction and passion in Christ must have puzzled Saul. All of the witnesses said his face was that of an angel. I am sure that picture echoed in Saul's mind when he slept. It wouldn't be much longer after this time when Saul would have a pivotal moment happen in his life. You never know what seeds your testimony is planting. You might think no one is listening or even noticing. You might think that your life story isn't making much of a difference or that is isn't turning out how you planned it to be, but do not be discouraged. Stand firm with integrity, living for Christ and I will promise you that none of it is in vain. God will weave it into his plan and glory.
Sharing in today's world,