Imagine your dying words to those who are killing you; “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). None of Stephen’s accusers could lay one personal charge against him. All he did was proclaim the truth that had been given to Israel hundreds of years before through the “fathers” and “prophets.”
Note that Stephen was not asking the Lord to forgive them for their rebellion against God and His truth revealed in the Scripture. That charge stood. He was simply the spokesman that the Spirit selected for that moment in time to convict them with truth. God was confident in Stephen’s character, knowing he would be faithful no matter what the cost; and he was!
Where did Stephen get the idea to forgive his accusers of his own death? We only need to look back a short time to the crucifixion of Jesus. As He suffered on the cross between two criminals, Jesus spoke to God and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The magnanimous grace that flowed from Jesus’ lips was flowing from Stephen’s, who realized the ignorance of the murderers.
So often we look at those who oppose and harm us as persons who are attacking us personally, when they are doing so for the truth we proclaim and stand for. Look past the personal elements and reflect the heart of God in forgiveness. This is how the enemy is defeated, even if we die!
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