Acts 22:19 – 20
And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And while the blood of your witness Stephen was shed, I myself was standing by, approving and keeping the coats of those who killed him.’
This gut wrenching statement was made by Paul as part of his defense after he was seized following a disturbance in the temple (chapter 21). Paul is explaining to a violent crowd the series of events that happened to him while on his way to Damascus to bind and imprison disciples of Jesus (chapter 9). Paul cites the stoning of Stephen as an example of his former life as an enforcer of Jewish law. Paul goes on to tell of the miracles that brought him to be filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.
I read this statement by Paul over and over. By using the example of the stoning of Stephen, I feel as though Paul is talking about the worst moment of his former life, perhaps the very one that he regrets the most. He uses this reference to the lowest point in his life to contrast the highest point of his life, the moment God removed “the scales from his eyes”.
I think that we all have things in our life we regret; I certainly do, but none as extreme as standing by and approving the killing of another. What absolute conviction Paul must have had to speak of this horror in order to demonstrate the revelation, forgiveness and purpose of Paul’s new life in Christ. One of the exercise in the EfM program is a spiritual biography, in which we talk about the way God has changed our lives. Many of these biographies tell of the low points of our lives and the ways that God has shown us revelation, forgiveness, and purpose.
During this difficult and frightening time, perhaps we should all take a moment to reflect and remember the grace and love that God has shown us. Because a reminder of those high points in our lives may help us to look at the world through the promise of God’s love and strength.
Lois Vanderbok, EfM, Year 1