One of the great questions of our time is, "How can we follow Jesus' command to love our enemies while still speaking God’s truth?" In the book of Acts, Stephen sets an example we can all follow when we are in this situation.
Let’s take a look at his story:
Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.
But one day, some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia.
None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.
So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses and even God.”
This roused the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council.
The lying witnesses said, “This man is always speaking against the holy Temple and against the law of Moses. We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” (Acts 6:8-14)
Even though he had done nothing wrong, Stephen was in deep trouble because men who hated him, lied about him, and brought him before the courts.
Knowing he faced possible imprisonment or even death, Stephen had some choices to make.
He could back down and apologize for “offending” the Jews for his intolerance or the message that offended him and try to save his own skin. Or he could speak the truth and take the consequences.
This couldn’t have been an easy decision, and yet, filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen stood firm, spoke the truth, and preached the Gospel Message (including the parts they didn’t want to hear) to the crowd.
If this were Hollywood, Stephen would have persuaded the people with his words, and there would have been a huge revival. That’s not what happened. (Because the Bible is real.)
Instead, the Jewish leaders became enraged, dragged him out of the city, and began stoning him.
This is where Stephen’s 'ride or die' character came shining through.
Instead of fighting them, responding in anger, or even calling down curses on them, Stephen followed Jesus' example and said, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!”
And then he died.
In all of his actions, he set an example for us to follow.
You see, it’s easy for us, as Americans, with our fight-to-win attitude to understand that as followers of Jesus, we are called to do both: stand for truth and love our enemies.
Like the people Jesus spoke to in Matthew 5:43-48, we see people as ‘for us’ or ‘against us,' and we’re tempted to love those who are for us while showing our angry, antagonistic side to those who disagree. Jesus said this is wrong. Instead, He said we should, “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”
That’s the answer to the question: We are called to do both!
Like Stephen, we must stand for truth while showing Christlike love at the same time.
It isn’t easy, but it’s part of being a follower of Christ.
We can do two things at one time. Like Stephen, we can stand for truth and love those who don't want to hear it.
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry.