In Acts 7:51-8:1a, Stephen faces a crowd of unwilling listeners. He is outraged at the lack of attention and the magnitude of indifference from the people, elders, and scribes. It seems so simple, Stephen simply wants them to listen and truly hear the words that he is speaking about the Lord. Initially when I came across this reading, I understood Stephen’s anger. However, the further I read, the more I began to understand the very crowd with whom Stephen was angry.
It was easy for me to put myself in Stephen’s shoes: to be someone who is facing a wall of people who simply do not want to make an effort to listen or understand. It is infuriating to feel excited or passionate for something only to receive blank faces of indifference or accusing glares of reproach after I have shared my enthusiasm with a crowd of listeners. It is almost a wearing, insulted, feeling as though the words that came from my mouth were nothing but wasted air. I am sure there are many people who can empathize with Stephen’s frustration as he faced the crowds of people.
Although it is more difficult to admit, it is also easy to find myself as one of the participants in the crowd with my eyes and ears shut tight, refusing to see or listen to the very words being spoken to me. It is far too easy to fall into the mob mentality and lose a person’s individual thought. It only takes a few voices to grow into a large mass of people stuck behind one “group” belief. But imagine if a few of the people had actually respected Stephen’s humanity enough to simply listen and think his words over. Would people have turned from the group and sought Stephen out to ask questions?
With the Easter season fresh upon us, we are given a new sense of joy and hope. Christ rose from the dead and built His church of which we are all a part of. However, I feel it is important to remember the sacrifices made for me and my brothers and sisters to create this Church. I feel as though I can learn from Stephen and other martyrs as well as the very people how sentenced them to death. I feel have a responsibility to profess my faith to others, and I feel that it is equally important to be respectful to alternative beliefs. It may be difficult for me to listen to words or hear opinions that I disagree with, but perhaps that is a small “sacrifice” I can make on a daily basis this Easter season.