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Acts 7: 54-60
“54Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.55But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;56and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”57But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse.58When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.59They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”60Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.”
Bullying is a growing issue in our society. When I was younger, I experienced bullying from other kids because I am short and my teeth desperately needed braces prior to my teen years. Recently, bullying has become much worse and with tragic consequences. These days bullying isn’t just in person, but also through social media. We even had to come up with a name for it: cyberbullying.
When other kids would make fun of me and even physically hurt me, I will admit that all I felt inside was anger. I wanted to make them feel as bad as they made me feel. I certainly didn’t have compassion for them.
This story in Acts is far worse than bullying. The members of the Sanhedrin jumped straight from bullying Stephen to murdering him. Being stoned is an awful way to die. Just imagine having rocks hitting you in the head, face, and body repeatedly—breaking your nose, skull, and other bones, then being hit repeatedly on those broken bones until a big enough rock hits you hard enough and you die.
Stephen was going through emotional, mental, and physical anguish at a level I hope I never experience. However, the NIV version tells us that, “while they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’”
Wow. Stephen knew these people were out to kill him. But despite everything, Stephen had compassion on them and prayed for God to forgive them WHILE they were in the process of killing him. I don’t know if I could do that, but that is exactly what God calls us to do for those that hurt us.
Forgiving a bully and having compassion on them doesn’t mean you continue letting them hurt you. No, you call them out for what they are doing and remove yourself from further harm, but, at the same time, you allow yourself to forgive them even when you don’t want to.
Is there someone who has hurt or bullied you that you need to forgive today?