‘Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”
To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. “Leave your country and your people,” God said, “and go to the land I will show you.”‘
“How well do you know the person?” is a question we should ask ourselves, about people we would like to change.
We live in a time when people long – intensely – to change other people: People not like us; people who do not share our values; “… those people, over there – them! They need to change!” But we also live in a time when people do little – to no – work, to try to understand someone’s story before they pronounce judgment.
Stephen, in the passage above from Acts, is just starting to recount the story of the people he wants to change. The story Stephen tells, is long, detailed, and is the story that the people he addresses, would tell about themselves. Stephen knows the people he wants to change.
At the heart of the Bible is a clear call to change: “Repent…”, and there are crystal clear commands about the posture we should assume, when we call others to change: We can’t misrepresent the people we speak to, and – even when we’re in the right – if our call comes from a place of anger, it’s game over before we begin.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 10:17), means each and every one of our neighbors. “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5), is Paul’s way of imitating his Lord, who said: “I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matthew 11:29). Living out that “gentleness”, founded on grace, is also our daily struggle to be faithful to the same Lord.
“How well do you know the person?” – it’s a question we should ask about ourselves: “How well do you know yourself?” It is Jesus’ question to anyone who is supremely confident that he is called to change other people: “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)
Prayer: Lord, please change me, first, before I try to change anyone else. And, when you call me to approach other people, and ask them to change, give me a heart shaped by your grace, patience, and humility, so that I can get out of the way, and they can hear You in my words. Amen.