Monday of the 3rd Week of Eastertide
But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke
When my son was 2 years old (a truly impressionable age), he was constantly observing his surroundings, the people around him, and absorbed details like a sponge. It surprised me sometimes when he said certain things, and I wondered where he learnt them from. He was developing his identity and character, making that period in his life all the more important for us to instil the right values and teachings in him – teachings that I hoped and prayed as a mother, would carry him well when he eventually headed off to school, and with that, life.
One of my worst fears is school bullying. No parent wants to find out that their child has been bullied, or worse, that their child is the bully – either way, it is heartbreaking to hear. I can’t be there for everything that my son will go through. I know that he will have to learn the hard knocks in life, or maybe he simply won’t want to open up to me and I will just have to wait patiently by the sidelines until he is ready to reach out. But I do hope that I can teach him well enough for him to know that if he doesn’t want to talk to anyone, he can at least talk to God and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help.
In Stephen’s situation, false witnesses were called upon to taint his character and speak ill of him. They accused him of blasphemy when they themselves were the blasphemous ones. They did all that because they couldn’t win against him. And so they resorted to verbal abuse and later, as we know, physical abuse and death.
People, especially children, fear being bullied and sadly, most will join in the bullying to avoid being picked on by the bully. Bullies bully because they don’t want to look weak. They need to feel a sense of security, and their strength over a ‘weaker’ person makes their position validated in their minds. What could Stephen have done? He could have fought back. He could have remained a victim. But that would not be the kind of person God called him to be. The Bible tells us not to take vengeance, for “vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Jesus goes on to say that if someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn, and offer him your other cheek too (Matthew 5:39). Jesus challenged us further by exhorting us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Stephen neither retaliated, nor did he become a victim. Instead, he stood steadfast in truth and faith in God, and God was with him.
It pains me to know that this is easier said than done, and as humans, we are fragile beings with fragile emotions. My son is not exempt from that; neither is anyone for that matter. But I hope that I can help to instil a faith in him that is strong enough to withstand it if it ever happens. I hope that he understands that he can “call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and [be] saved” from his enemies (Psalm 18:3). I hope that he knows that truth and love will prevail in the end, and that there are more rewards for him to be steadfast on the side of God.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, for our children and all those who are silently suffering their tormentors and bullies – please give them strength, comfort and a listening ear. May their seedlings of faith in you grow as you stand with them, even as others stand against them.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for showing us that there is a better path to follow. It hurts, but you will sooth our hearts and show us a higher purpose, and we thank you for that.