Day 20: Constructive Corrections
Adapted from the Book of Acts Chapter 7 with a focus on verses 25, 49 and 51.
Dear Lord, In Chapter 7 of Acts, Stephen summarized the Scriptures before he was martyred. He described Abraham, Joseph, Jacob, the Kings, the Prophets, Moses, David and Solomon. He put it all out there. Stephen explained repeatedly how “Moses supposed that his kinsfolk would understand that God through him was rescuing them, but they did not understand.” (v. 25) Stephen wanted the Israelites to recall how they were “forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as their ancestors used to do.” Even Solomon “who built a house for God,” forgets that “God does not dwell in houses made with human hands.” (v. 49) Help us to remember that like Stephen, we, as followers of Jesus, should not shy away from self-criticism. Help us to learn from past mistakes.
According to Willimon (and I agree with his assumption), in Acts Chapter 7, Stephen’s speech hinges on the fact that repeatedly Israel did not understand. So the author of Acts (many say the writer is Luke) is using Stephen’s words to speak to his own church about persecution. Willimon emphasizes, “we are reading the speech of a persecuted church, of which Stephen was a martyr and Luke [Willimon sees Luke as the author of Acts] was a defender.” (63) Willimon asks if Stephen lived now, would he have to include “stories of the church’s silence and complicity in Auschwitz and Buchenwald?” (63) (In 1995 I traveled to Auschwitz and Buchenwald with my seminary class. The most disturbing pictures I will never forget were of Nazis who received communion and then committed murder.)
Willimon’s observation that “Stephen’s speech reminds the church that one of the most significant aspects of our legacy from Israel is Israel’s ability to use it’s own Scripture as a means of self-criticism.” (63) Do we understand that churches made with human hands do not have exclusive access to God in their buildings; and that no human dictates will ever cancel out the great commandment that says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. [and] You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 12.30-32) Will we listen for words that clarify and criticize the actions of the church when the Church needs it?
Prayer Recap: Dear Jesus, Church history is not always easy to examine, however, it is important to You that we know it. Help us to use what we learn to improve the way we live on earth as in heaven. Amen.