The book of acts states that one of the first martyrs, Stephen, had “the face of an angel”, as he was being accused of sedition, blasphemy, etc. That’s always struck me as something quite unique in the Bible. I can’t think of anyone else ever referred to in this manner.
Since Donatello first produced “cherubs” in his paintings, we’ve had this whimsical idea that angels are chubby, naked little winged babies, flying around church steeples. But that idea is nowhere found in scripture. Are the angels dazzling… handsome…awesome….striking in appearance? Yes, that’s biblical; but not the renaissance notion of a pretty, soft, feminine or androgynous being. The “face of an angel” that I think Luke was referring to in the book of Acts was in reference to a countenance that was holy, pure, resolved, brave, unflinching. And if I may be so bold, that’s the face that a true follower of Jesus (such as Stephen) should portray. Ahhh, but do I? Does my face show grace and tenderness, but also determination and courage to be about God’s work—even if my co-workers, family and friends abandon the call?
People killed Stephen anyway, so his angelic face did not sway them any more than Jesus’ face did—-the very face of God! In fact, Jesus was murdered even though he had the most pure heart, the greatest humility and was filled with total truth, perfect knowledge and had command of language in a way that swayed thousands! But in the end an angry crowd wanted Him dead—-just like they wanted Stephen dead. Dead for just for speaking the truth?
I am reminded that my face, my convictions, my determination, my faith and my love for Jesus does not provide a force shield of protection from those that are offended by God’s truth. In fact, it appears that the very things that we think should draw men to God oftentimes brings out hatred and violence. There are a few great men and women of God that ended their lives peacefully enjoying their grandchildren, I suppose, but I can’t think of many of them—-even in our modern day.
And yet, at the last, when Stephen was being pelted with stones and near death, he looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God! Jesus was standing! Waiting for this hero—-Stephen—to come home! Oh that it might be so in my life! Oh that He will tell me, “Well done, man of faith and courage”! Am I being a man, like John the Baptist, who fearlessly says, “brother, what you are doing is against God’s law”? Am I speaking the good news of Jesus even those near me might sneer, or worse, ignore me? Am I standing for Him, living for Him, being spilled out and broken for Him each day? Or I am denying Him in the way I confront my assailants and “look out for “number one”?
God Almighty—-give me and the men and women that lead this camp this summer the faces of angels.
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