(Warning: Steel toed boot zone)
It's just one line. If you take away the chapter and verse separations it becomes part of a bigger story, but as it is in the Life Journal this morning, it's just one line...out there all by itself. Without the story that comes before it, it makes absolutely no sense... "And Saul approved of their killing him."
Killing whom? And why did he approve?
If you're familiar with the story, you know who the "whom" is and why Saul approved of their killing him. The "whom" was Stephen, and Saul was probably standing by saying, "Good riddance." I mean, he was nothing but a trouble maker, really...going around talking about Jesus this and Jesus that. I bet he probably helped a few poor people. Acts 6 says that Stephen was a man full of God's grace and power, and that he performed great wonders and signs among the people.
He stood up and boldly proclaimed all that God had done througout their history as a people, from Abraham through Solomon...made a heck of a speech, if you ask me. Now, if that had been all he had done, he probably would have been okay, but no, he couldn't do that. See, he was convinced that God had called him to be different, to call things like he saw them, and folks usually don't like that. Then he did it... he quit preaching and went to meddling.
That's where the not-so-innocent bystander comes into the story. You see, Saul was a man of God, a devout Jew...dedicated and devoted...and I'm sure that he honestly wanted nothing more than to protect the traditions of the church...honestly. I really believe he thought he was doing no wrong by allowing this dissenter to be stoned. But, he couldn't actually throw the stones. That would be wrong. So, he stood by, holding their cloaks, and watched.
If I had a dollar for everytime I've witnessed that since going into the ministry...well, I'd have a bunch of dollars. We don't want to be the ones to throw the stones, but we won't necessarily speak up when the stones are being thrown and we know it's wrong. I don't doubt that we had good intentions. Maybe we were afraid that we would be caught in the crossfire, or maybe we just didn't know what to say.
I'm sure Saul thought that by not throwing any stones he was innocent of Stephen's death, but the way I see it, Stephen's blood was on his hands too. If Saul had the pull within the group that scripture leads us to believe he had, he could have stopped it. Now, scripture says that he approved of what they were doing, and that makes this story a little different. Still, I have to wonder, if he knew it was wrong to the point that he didn't actually throw a stone, why did he not at least try to stop them?
How many times have we stood by while someone was being stoned, holding the cloaks, and not saying anything? I will admit that I have done it...more than once. I don't think I can anymore. My new catch phrase is "holy boldness," and I think that the next time I see someone throwing stones I will do all I can to step up to the "stonee's" defense. I doubt that I will ever encounter a situation as drastic as the stoning of Stephen, but I know I will sit in committee meetings, and board meetings, and will have conversations over a meal or a cup of coffee...and I know that the opportunity to go to someone's defense will definitely present itself.