THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST
A STIFF-NECKED PEOPLE
Today’s reading: Acts 7:51-8:1
The people of God today, as they often have been from the
time of the Israelites, are a stiff-necked people. They are
stubborn and haughty. They insist on their own ways, think
they know best (yes, better than God), have their own agenda
and priorities, and build their own kingdoms, after their
own image and likeness and not God’s. This is especially
true of leaders.
today’s reading, Stephen cites elements of such stiff-neckedness.
He boldly told the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious authorities
at that time: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised
in heart and ears” (v.51a). Their hearts were hard and
their ears were closed to the authentic teaching and ways
of God. Though they were circumcised as a sign of God’s
covenant with them, they actually were not living out that
reality. On the contrary, they were rebellious and even idolatrous.
was then. That is how it still is now. How were they
they did not live out God’s commands. “You received
the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe
it.” (v.53). Most Christians today openly violate the
laws of God. Their lives are sinful. Who are the murderers,
thieves, rapists, liars, gossips, etc, etc, of these times?
Many of them are Catholics. Even in our Church, there are
those liberals who would accommodate sin and accept such things
as live-in relationships or same-sex unions. Most Christians
today openly do not live out or even reject the Ten Commandments.
They are unmindful of the call to discipleship and holiness.
I could go on and on. But this is the tragic reality for so-called
Christians: they received God’s divine law but have
they opposed and persecuted those sent by God--the godly teachers,
the prophets, the authentic servant leaders. “Which
of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?” (v.52a).
Because people are sinful and stiff-necked, they resent and
reject those who try to tell them and teach them about God’s
ways. They reject prophetic words that expose their darkened
lives to the light. They do not want to follow leaders who
tell them about the authentic gospel, that of the cross. They
prefer the prosperity gospel, and just having a nice and happy
community life, and trying to make it to heaven in first-class
the Western world today, secular governments have gone a step
further. They are trying to stamp out religion and especially
the Church that speaks prophetically about their wrongs. They
call authentic Christian preaching as hateful and as bigotry.
They have passed unjust laws that allow them to fine and/or
imprison Christians who are trying to live out their convictions,
such as not accommodating same-sex couples for a wedding cake
or a B&B. Such persecution will only get worse. The early
prophets and Christians were martyred. “They put to
death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one,
whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.”
(v.52b). And the tragic reality today is that we are not talking
about what is happening in the Middle East or India where
radical Islamists or Hindus are killing Christians, but we
are talking about supposedly Christian nations, such as the
USA, Canada, Ireland, and many other countries.
they were not docile to the Holy Spirit and did not humbly
allow themselves to become His instruments. “You always
oppose the holy Spirit” (v.51b). Jesus already did everything
to win for us our salvation. But the work continues. So he
sent his disciples, which today includes us, and supposedly
all Christians. God chooses, calls, equips and empowers through
His Holy Spirit. But many Christians today do not know the
Holy Spirit, do not understand what is the role of the Spirit,
and for those who do, they do not allow themselves to be used
by the Spirit. They do not live lives in the Spirit, but rather,
they live in the flesh, which is totally opposed to the Spirit.
Even the call to the New Evangelization is falling on deaf
ears, on uncircumcised ears, and we today still lack the laborers
for the harvest that God has already prepared.
dear brethren, in varying degrees, such a still-necked people
are you, and the many so-called Christians you see around.
If Christians were not stiff-necked, then the gospel would
be effectively proclaimed to the ends of the earth, the Kingdom
of God would truly be built, there would be countless saints
and martyrs raised, and the Church and the world would experience
the peace and unity that God intends for His people.
then must you do? One, know and obey and live out God’s
commands. Two, seek out and listen to and obey those human
instruments that God sends to tell you and teach you about
God’s commands and the way you are to go. Three, always
be docile to the Holy Spirit, being humble and totally open
to how God wants to use you.
not, whether you admit it or not, you are among those are
stiff-necked. “You are just like your ancestors.”