Skip to main content

Meet Stephen: Exploring slavery and freedom.

"Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.  But some men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen...stood up and argued with Stephen."
Acts 6: 8-9



This Scripture was the focus of the church message yesterday morning.  The story goes on to say that the men at the Synagogue became more enraged and eventually killed Stephen for daring to love deeply and heal with compassion--in the name of Jesus. 

What is most interesting to me is that these men were Freedmen, or men that had once been enslaved by other men and had been set free.  They were now using their freedom to enslave others with religious regulations.  Once having no power, they knew what oppression felt like.  Instead of taking their freedom and using it for good--to set others free--they became dictators of the religious law. They believed themselves to be God's hand of justice, enslaving and killing men that were truly free in Jesus.
Men like Stephen.

When they confronted Stephen, he reminded them of Israel's history as slaves in Egypt.  The entire monologue is about Israel's history as slaves and how God greatly redeemed them.  Yet, in their freedom and redemption, they "turned their hearts back to Egypt."  The cycle is nothing new.  
We have been doing it all along.

"You stubborn people...You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, like your ancestors did."

You, who know the pain of slavery.
You, who have tasted the blood and sweat of oppression.
You, who have been given your freedom.  Now enslaving and killing others.

To me, this all sounds rather familiar.  Several states are now looking at legislation to promote "religious freedom" exceptions to already established anti-discrimination laws.  Have you noticed that the majority seeking "religious freedom" claim to be a part of the Christian community?

To me, they all sound like the Synagogue of the Freedmen.  They claim that they are "Christian" which means that they have been freed by Jesus, forgiven of their sin, now free to love and serve others with the deep compassion of Jesus Christ.  
Yet.  They are using their "religious freedom" as an excuse to live without compassion, love, or empathy.
That is what it means to enslave another.

The good news is that there are still followers of Jesus who truly understand freedom.
Followers like Stephen.
Who are not afraid of touching the sick and broken (and doing therapy with them--gasp!)
Who are not afraid to serve those who do not yet know Jesus' compassion.
Who have not forgotten the deep sin within their own hearts--their own life of enslavement.
Who are not afraid to die, like Stephen, for love.







Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

What it means when a narcissistic pastor says, "I love the church"

I ran across this article while going through a rough place in my life.  It had profound meaning for me in dealing with some of the individuals in my life that have narcissistic traits. The article highlights the fact that when a narcissist says, “I love you,” he really means that he loves the way that you (fill in the blank): take care of his needs, focus your energy on him, submit, etc. Individuals that have been in relationships with narcissists often admit to feeling crazy, not recognizing the abuse while it was occurring, and to keeping secrets to cover for his abuse, infidelity, etc.  I wonder if this is what many people are recognizing in the #exevangelical movement.  Because as I was going through this article again, I began to realize that many of the narcissistic traits could be applied to the many pastors and men in church leadership that I have known through the years. Being in church ministry for twelve years, I became proficient at silence and lies to cover the behavior…

I visited a Mosque. And went to church.

Today, our local International Rescue Committee organization hosted a solidarity event at the Islamic Society of Wichita while their members were gathering for Friday prayers.  We stood outside, held signs, and let them know that we are with them.  That we are forthem.

But before the event I met my new friend, Ratna, for a tour and some lunch in the well-worn gym.  I was running a little early so I sat by myself on the concrete fountain in front of the building.
It was a beautiful day.  The sun was warming me.  I could smell the food cooking.  A suburban in the parking lot said, "Girl Scout Cookies For Sale!" written in white shoe polish on the dark windows.

Pretty soon, Ratna pulled up in her minivan, tagged along behind by her 5-year-old son with his bright blue iPad and headphones.  He was watching a Pokemon cartoon and was humming along to the songs.  Skipping as he went.  Ratna smiled, hugged me, and led me inside for a tour of their worship space.

It was a beautiful b…

To "speak the truth in love" does not mean "reprimand"

"...speaking the truth in love..." Ephesians 4:15
Notice the "dot, dot, dot," before and after that phrase?  But how many times have you heard it as a full sentence?  Speak the Truth in love.  As a full sentence, it loses all context.  And how often is this phrase used as an excuse to reprimand another "in love" and tell them about their multitude of sins?
The New Living Translation has a completely different take on this phrase.  It states, "we will hold to the truth in love."  Now, that changes it a bit, doesn't it?  That makes the action about me and not about me acting on another.  
In context, Ephesians 4 is talking about the Body of Christ and how we must work to grow up and mature in the Lord.  "Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe..."  The work is for each of us to grow up and cling to the Lord's love.  
And what Truth are we clinging to?  It is the truth that we are d…