Stephen was one of the leaders of the early church – the church that spent time together, ate meals together, looked out for one another, and sought goodwill for all the people. . . for a little while.
Stephen made other religious leaders (the Pharisees and the Sadducees) nervous. The Jesus followers were becoming more than a nuisance. They didn’t want any more people messing with their rules. They planted false stories about him. They spread untrue rumors about him. They put him on trial on false charges.
And during the trial, Stephen had a vision. He saw “the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Those who wanted Stephen gone didn’t want to hear it. They didn’t want to see it. They were not willing to listen to anything except their narrow thoughts. They were not willing to listen to any voice save one that agreed with them. They weren’t willing to open their eyes to any possibility other than one that fit their agenda.
And they killed Stephen.
Stephen is lifted up a Christian martyr. He is lifted up as one who remained a true follower of Jesus until his untimely death.
And it didn’t have to be that way.
This isn’t a good story. It’s a story of a murder. It’s the story of lies and jealousy and hatred and violence and murder. It’s the story of closed minds and lies and jealousy and hatred and murder.
It is a story that is too often repeated.
They are all toxic. We can live better without them.