Posted by: Jivani Lisa | December 26, 2013

Persevere in Love

Stephen said: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always opposing the Holy Spirit just as your fathers did before you. Was there ever any prophet whom your fathers did not persecute? In their day, they put to death those who foretold the coming of the Just One; now you in your turn have become his betrayers and murderers. You who received the law through the ministry of angels have not observed it.”
(Acts 6:51-53)

Jesus said: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”
(Matthew 10:22)

December 26th is the feast day of Saint Stephen who was a deacon (Acts 6:5-6) and is considered the First Martyr of the Church. He was stoned to death for believing in Jesus Christ and for pointing out the hypocrisy of this persecutors.

Jesus tells his disciples that they should expect to be hated and persecuted in this world; yet, if they persevere, they will “be saved.” However, I think many modern, ultra-conservative Christians use this in defense of their own mean-spirited righteousness.  Whether they are right or wrong, they come across full of hatred and violence toward anyone who disagrees with them.  So of course, they will be met with hatred and violence in return!  This, they figure, “proves” they are correct – because Jesus said, “You will be hated by all because of my name.”

What Jesus really meant was this:  “If you go around believing in me and sharing my teachings with others in a firm but loving way, you will be hated, because I and my teachings are completely counter-cultural.  People will argue with you, and try to harm you, because they do not want to hear the truth.  Endure in a loving way, and your soul will be saved.”

Love for everyone, including enemies, is the proof of a true Christian.

Saint Stephen spoke the truth in a straight-forward (yet loving!) way because he (through the Holy Spirit) was trying to wake people up.  We know that when people choose to feel threatened rather than grateful for the opportunity to wake-up, anger arises.  A true Christian then responds with love and patience.

Even as he was dying at the hands of his executioners, Saint Stephen prayed (as Jesus prayed at his crucifixion):  “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).  That’s the kind of endurance – love for all, even in the most difficult circumstances – that attains eternal life.

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