Devotional Thought of the Day
59 So they stoned Stephen while he called upon God, and said, “Jesus, Lord, receive my spirit!” 60 Then, on his knees, he cried in ringing tones, “Lord, forgive them for this sin.” And with these words he fell into the sleep of death ….. Acts 7:59-60 (Phillips NT)
16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t become snobbish but take a real interest in ordinary people. Don’t become set in your own opinions. 17 Don’t pay back a bad turn by a bad turn, to anyone. Don’t say “it doesn’t matter what people think”, but see that your public behaviour is above criticism. 18 As far as your responsibility goes, live at peace with everyone. 19 Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’. 20 … these are God’s words: ‘Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head’. Don’t allow yourself to be overpowered with evil. Take the offensive – overpower evil by good! Romans 12:16-20 (Phillips NT)
688 Once again, they’ve been talking, they’ve written— in favor, against; with good, and with not so good will; insinuations and slanders, panegyrics and plaudits; hits and misses … Fool, big fool! As long as you keep going straight toward your target—head and heart intoxicated with God—why care about the clamor of the wind or the chirping of the cricket, or the bellowing, or the grunting, or the neighing? Besides, it’s inevitable; don’t try to install doors in open air.
It is the odd day that someone isn’t criticized for their beliefs, It seems a past time to criticize others, and most of us have been hurt deeply by that criticism. And perhaps as often, we have struck back hurting others as we’ve been criticized. Either hitting our target, the one who attacked us or striking some innocent person who walked into range at just the wrong time.
This is true in the secular world, and it is as true in the world of religion.
It is hard to allow people to strike us, without striking out in self-defense. It is hard to take the abuse and not be hurt.
Such oppression dealt with in a manner like Jesus’ dealing with his accusers, or dealt with as St. Stephen did, can lead to reconciliation and community in ways we could never have imagined.
Yes, it takes great faith, an incredible level of trust in God. That is the key.
Having thick skin isn’t the key.
Pretending the words don’t hurt isn’t the key. Neither is not taking it personally! When our beliefs and opinions are, well ours, we can’t just shake it off. To pretend we can is living a lie.
In order to survive our beliefs being criticized, in order to hear the words, apply what is true and beneficial, and not strike out, we need to do what St Stephen does, cry out to Jesus. We need to keep focused on our target, Jesus. To not deviate from our adoration of Him, our awe at the depth of His love for us, I love the way St. Josemaria puts it, our head and heart intoxicated with God! To make life centered on receiving that love, and returning it. Living life in full view of it, and becoming the saints He has planned for us to be.
It is then that true constructive criticism (or that two lines out of a thousand) become something we are grateful for, as they help us draw closer to Jesus. And that which isn’t constructive, we ask that God forgive, that He handle, because He has the wisdom we don’t.
That kind of love, that kind of trust in God helps us to not just dismiss the evil we encounter, but sees GOd’s love overwhelm it. Just as Paul, who wrote then incredible words in Romans quoted above, and witnessed Stephen pleading with God to be merciful with Paul.
May our cries for the Lord to have mercy, not only include us, but all, including our enemies and adversaries.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1602-1606). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Discussion/Devotional Thought of the Day:
19 A teacher of the Law came to him. “Teacher,” he said, “I am ready to go with you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus answered him, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lie down and rest.” 21 Another man, who was a disciple, said, “Sir, first let me go back and bury my father.” 22 “Follow me,” Jesus answered, “and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:19-22 (TEV)
Copy me, my brothers, as I copy Christ himself. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (Phillips NT) 1
148 Why stoop to drink from the puddles of worldly consolations if you can satisfy your thirst with waters that spring up into life everlasting? (1)
I am still in awe that the Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom was created everything that has been created, journeyed around thinking nothing of His own comfort. Jesus should have been afforded every comfort, and took none, sleeping on the ground with a rock ( which He created) as His pillow, the ground as His bed. His service (we like to call it a nicer word ministry) to us was His focus, and discomfort was taken on gladly. Because of His love for the Father, because of His love…for us.
We are not so willing to follow Him, to make His life our pattern. We want to have the positions that are comfortable, the ministries that are peaceful and growing, and without conflict or pain. I myself have wondered recently, what would happen if I got a call that was to a church that was a distance off, far from our families and friends. ( If it was in upstate New Hampshire or near Boston – that’s cool – but… that’s me looking after my comfort zone again!) Would I be willing to endure that? Or what about another conflicted parish? What about going back to being bi-vocational?
I take my comfort in my electronics – I am presently struggling because my smartphone is in the shop, and I was given an ancient model (circa 2007) to replace it while it is there. Oh the indignity! Oh the suffering of dealing with a 2 inch screen (my 6 year old thinks its so cool and retro -cute!)
How much do we look for our comfort, for our lives and not look to where Paul looked, because he copied (as best as he could) Jesus.
How can we find our comfort, our consolation (look it up in the dictionary – cool word) in the things of this world – the homes, the cars, the safe community, when something more is there…..
Something more fulfilling, more enduring, more incredible.
Something that will leave us in awe…
Can we look to Jesus, the author, finisher, model of our faith… and take up our cross… and for His sake, for His service, for His mission… follow Him? Can we go where He wants us to go – not giving thought to the cost… knowing the cost of the sins of people – that they need to know has been paid?
Lord, Have mercy on us, help our perspective, help our will and desires to be copied from You, and give us your strength and power to see that happen.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 481-482). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- The Eucharist: the Strength to Reveal Christ to Others… (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Our Place is His Place! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Serving God where ever He calls you to service (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Persecution, Tribulation, Troubles, Trials: What the Bible Says to Christians (endtimesprophecyreport.wordpress.com)