HOPE AND FORGIVENESS
Read: Acts 7:54-60
“54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 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.” (NIV Acts 7:54-60)
Study: The world has changed since New Testament times. It’s unlikely any of us will ever face crucifixion or stoning (and we’re thankful). Jesus and his follower Stephen, however, faced those terrible deaths. Yet they both asked God to forgive even the people killing them, people who didn’t even want their forgiveness. Their prayers showed how Jesus’ kind of forgiving spirit can permeate our lives, if we are open to it. Think of a time when someone wronged you in a major way. Remember how the situation came to be, what feelings it triggered in you, and what you did about them. Have you been able to forgive and let go of the hurt, or has this wrong continued to haunt you? What would it take for you to set yourself free from the past by forgiving? What kind of help, divine or human, might you need for that process?
Pray: Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. And even as I ask for your mercy, which I need every day, help me be merciful to those who wrong me, so that they and I may be free. Amen.