I am currently taking a New Testament class from Brigham Young University. Right now we are reading the second half of the New Testament starting with Acts, and we read the martyrdom of Stephen, which you may be familiar with. The leaders of the Jews have accused Stephen, an early missionary, of blasphemy for preaching about Jesus Christ. The consequence of his actions was stoning, or throwing stones at him until he died from the blows. While they are in the very act of killing him, he says these verses:
Acts 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Maybe like you have, I always knew that these verses were special. I was also always amazed at Stephen’s selflessness where He asks God not to “lay…this sin to their charge”. What incredible strength of character!
But then my teacher pointed out something that I hadn't thought of before. He asked, “What did Stephen see in Jesus and the Father’s face that allowed him to say that?”
I realized then that it wasn't Stephen’s amazing character, perfect virtue or his own efforts that allowed him to freely forgive those who were killing him. It never was. That healing love was, and is, a gift from God. That is the only place that love and strength can come from. It seems that I sometimes forget that the people in the scriptures and my leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints aren't infallible; that they aren't perfect, enlightened people who worked out their own salvation. Every single one of them is exemplary men and women solely because of gift of love given to them from God.
To me, that’s a huge relief and gives me hope. It means that I don’t have to rely on my meager handful of love to get me through the day. Instead, Heavenly Father’s got me covered. It means that although it won’t be easy, just like getting stoned surely isn't, He can give me the strength I need to love others even when they hurt me.
This is true for you. I know that right now you might be in the very process of being hurt and healed over and over again. It isn't be easy to muster up love for family members every day, that coworker, or your next door neighbor. But I also thank my Heavenly Father so much, because he is close to every single one of us. Your pain is His own. He has never left your side and never will. You don’t have to worry about your own efforts to get you through; He’s got you covered. He is the one who can give you that love you need for others.
I promise you that every day you plead with Heavenly Father on your knees you are looking into His and your Savior’s face. I know that the love you so desperately need is there and will change you. And I promise that as you let His love change you, you will start look more like them than you can realize.
-Submitted by Karen F.
-Submitted by Karen F.