Have you ever had an argument where you could tell with a hundred percent certainty that the other person was not listening to you? Have you ever told your child to do something and you were positive that they did not hear a single word you said? How about communicating with your teenager…ever feel like they have invisible hands over their ears as you are trying to talk to them?
Despite our best efforts to communicate, there are times when we simply aren’t heard. People tune us out because of anger, lack of interest, lack of respect, obstinance, ignorance, and a host of other reasons. Many of those reasons don’t even have anything to do with us or what we are saying…people are dealing with their own internal demons, which can render them deaf.
In our scripture this week, a Jesus-follower named Stephen was trying to communicate the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, he shared a vision of heaven. But the council members were not swayed. They were deeply threatened by his revelation, as it challenged their power structure and a status quo that put them at the top of the food chain. So they shouted and covered their ears when he spoke.
Then they did the unthinkable:
Acts 7 (Contemporary English Version)
55 But Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit. He looked toward heaven, where he saw our glorious God and Jesus standing at his right side. 56 Then Stephen said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”
57 The council members shouted and covered their ears. At once they all attacked Stephen 58 and dragged him out of the city. Then they started throwing stones at him. The men who had brought charges against him put their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 As Stephen was being stoned to death, he called out, “Lord Jesus, please welcome me!” 60 He knelt down and shouted, “Lord, don’t blame them for what they have done.” Then he died.
It is extraordinary to see Stephen’s reaction to their violence. Rather than defend himself or fight back, he turned his eyes upon Jesus and asked for a homecoming. Then he absolved them of blame, asking God to forgive his murderers.
Stephen is remembered for his martyrdom and compassion. His willingness to proclaim Jesus in the midst of rejection and violent retaliation is remarkable. He didn’t stop, even knowing that nobody was listening.
There may be people in your life to whom you are speaking a word of love who aren’t listening. Tell them anyway. Others reject your offer for help. Help them anyway. Some are covering their ears as you try to give sound counsel. Keep trying. Sometimes carrying a message of hope results in being attacked for no reason. That’s when it’s important to ignore the ignorant comments and keep pressing forward with what the Holy Spirit is telling you to do. Just ask me.
May we all have a smidge of the enormous compassion Stephen felt for his attackers. In that way, we might have the peace that he had, and reflect back to the world the visible image of Christ’s forgiveness at the crucifixion.
Whenever we reflect Jesus, we honor God.