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Stephen, Jesus, and Forgiveness

Recently, I was reading of Stephen being persecuted and martyred for his faithfulness to Christ (Acts 6-7). If you’ve read the narrative, you might recall that Stephen was seized and charged by false witnesses who delivered an incriminating testimony against him. When it was Stephen’s turn to speak for himself, he accused his accusers of being a stubborn and stiff-necked people who resist the Holy Spirit, just like their ancestors (Acts 7:51-52).

For his faithfulness to Christ—and for his boldness, I might add—the Jews became infuriated and stoned him to death. What’s amazing in the story is what Stephen said with his final breaths: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60), echoing the words of Jesus: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

It’s challenging to extend grace to those who hurt us. But when we see how Stephen responded, we can notice an encouraging nugget of truth: even those who have hurt others can find forgiveness in Christ. And if forgiveness is available to others through Christ, then we can be like Jesus in extending forgiveness too. Has your spouse said an unkind word? Has your child been disrespectful? Has your neighbor or coworker been rude or unloving? If Jesus can extend forgiveness, you can be quick to forgive, too. This week, ask the Lord to help you be more like him, “slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8), that you might be enabled to forgive.

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