Stephen is the first follower of Jesus that was executed because of his unwavering devotion to Jesus. As we read in Acts chapter 6, Stephen was a man of genuine faith, integrity, wisdom and courage. He was among the seven chosen to be a part of leadership in the new and fast-growing church. He was so skillful and courageous in sharing and defending faith in Jesus, that he was seen as a threat to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Arrested on trumped up charges, Stephen addressed the court knowing that they were not looking for truth and justice, but for a way to shut him, and others like him, up. Nevertheless, Stephen took the opportunity to clearly explain how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament hope of the Messiah coming. In the process, he rightly called out his interrogators. He told them they were acting just like those in the past that persecuted the ones who spoke the truth: “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you!” Acts 7:51 (NLT) The leaders became “infuriated by Stephen’s accusation” (vs 54) and in their rage, raced to stone him to death. Instead of pleading for his life out of fear or cursing them in anger, Stephen focused his attention on His Lord and Savior. As his enemies were killing him, he prayed for them in hopes that they would see the error of their way. As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died. Acts 7:59-60 (NLT) In his last moments, Stephen followed the example of Jesus when He was being executed, 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NLT)
Not treating our enemies like enemies, is a distinctly Christ-like attitude.