Saint Stanislaus was martyred in the year 1079. He was the Bishop of Krakow in Poland and was known for his outspokenness in matters of faith and Christian morals. He aimed his attacks at the evils of peasants and king alike – especially the unjust wars and immoral acts of King Boleslaus II. The king made a great show of repentance but soon relapsed into his old ways, in his turn accusing the bishop of treason. Bishop Stanislaus continued to oppose the king and eventually excommunicated him. When the king’s soldiers refused to kill the bishop, King Boleslaus killed him with his own hands.
You don’t need a history book if you want to make a list of all the injustices that have occurred in the world. Individually, each of us could probably fill a book describing the ways we have been wronged over the years, ranging from petty grievances to life-changing wounds inflicted by relatives, friends, and even complete strangers. How should we respond to these injustices and hurts? Well, Saint Stephen’s response to his accusers can help us set the right tone.
Stephen’s opponents were clearly out to get him. By making false accusations and using lying witnesses, they convened a mock court designed to find him guilty. But no matter how many outrageous claims were made, Stephen never once lashed out or retaliated in any way. He did offer a defence when called upon, but never once did he stoop to the lies and manipulative games that his opponents used. Instead, he presented his case, hoping that the truth would prevail.
God wants us to do what we can to right the wrongs that injustices perpetrate. But at the end of the day, when we have done everything we can, as Saint Stephen did, our next step is to hold on to our peace and stay as close to Jesus as we can. The way we face injustice can speak volumes to the people around us, and it just may change the hearts of those who have hurt us. After all, Stephen’s composure during his trial and execution probably had a major influence on Saint Paul as he closely observed the proceedings.
Stephen’s demeanour demonstrated the peace of knowing that God’s plan will be carried out. He knew that God’s plan guarantees the best possible outcome. And just as Stephen’s composure probably influenced Paul’s conversion, the witness of our peace and surrender can be just as powerful. Who else but Jesus can enable us to put aside grudges, forgive those who hate us, and show kindness to those who are indifferent or hostile to us? This is a high calling, to be sure. But it is just as certain that God has all the grace we need to carry it out.