In today’s reading, we see that love and truth go hand in hand, and that either one without the other is not a truly Christian witness.
The reading begins with Stephen’s arrest for his open association with Jesus Christ. In the eyes of many of his contemporaries, this made him seem like an enemy of the temple, the tradition of Moses, and indeed of God himself. Just like Jesus before him, he too is being tried for blasphemy.
It is perhaps worth noting right off the bat how Stephen addresses his accusers. “Brothers and fathers,” he says. In other words, he is not defiant or disrespectful, and I don’t think this is merely a matter political maneuvering. To the contrary, Stephen is saying that he understands his connection to them even if they do not recognize their connection to him. Believing the best in love, “Brothers and fathers” is genuinely how Stephen chooses to see his opponents.
We often see Stephen as a bold witness for Jesus, and he was. In the challenging words that follow, he doesn’t hold back or “dumb down” the truth. But I think it is important that we also see him as a loving witness as well. His love was expressed both in his attitude and in his willingness to tell the truth, each complementing the other.
Even when we disagree—particularly when we disagree!—may we treat one another with love, as sisters and mothers, brothers and fathers. And then, graciously and respectfully as we would with our mother or father, sister or brother, may we not shrink back from speaking the truth—even when the truth may be hard to hear and when doing so may come at great personal cost.
For Jesus, truth and love walked hand in hand. Following Jesus, it is the same for Stephen. May it be the same for you and me as well.