December 25, 2011

Second Day of Christmas, Feast of St. Stephen

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 118, 2 Chron. 24:17-22, Acts 6
Evening - Ps. 30, 31, Acts 7:59-8:8

Commentary
Acts 7:59-8:8

It is notable that our cycle of prayer and Scripture moves immediately from the birth of the Saviour to the cost of following Christ, for Stephen is the first New Testament martyr for Christ. Thus we are reminded that being a Christian is not just about going to Heaven; it is an absolute and lifelong commitment to observing all things He has commanded us. In the murder of Stephen, the persecution of the Church began, for which the city of Jerusalem would pay so dearly in Revelation 4-11. 8:1-4 tells us the persecution was so severe, all Christians, except the Apostles, fled Jerusalem. But persecution followed them. Saul was probably only one of many who captured Christian Jews and returned them to Jerusalem to die (Acts 9:1).

If the events of this passage are true, and if the God to which they testify is real, then becoming a Christian is not something we do in search of self esteem or to enhance our quality of life. We become Christians because we owe God obedience and love. We become Christians because we have been made to understand that we were living in rebellion and sin against God, and because we want to turn away from sin and begin to do what is right. In short, we become Christians because it is right to do so. All other considerations are secondary, at best. I wonder if the Church today, including myself, spends too much time inviting people to go to Heaven and too little time calling people to obey God. Stephen's short time as a Christian was a time of prayer, service to God's people, and obedience unto death, not about blessings for Stephen.

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