During the Last Supper in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells His disciples what it means to be a Christian. He says, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater things than these.” Accordingly, there are three stages of faith:
- There’s believing in Jesus;
- There’s doing what Jesus did; and
- Then there’s this astonishing third element – doing greater things than Jesus. What could that possibly mean, doing greater things than Jesus?
One suggestion I’d like to offer is set forth by the example of Stephen, the first martyr in Christianity, found in Acts chapters and 6 and 7. We see how Stephen turned faith into concrete acts of love. He faced opposition with grace. And he told the story of God. But Stephen did not just stop there. Yes, those three actions are sufficient, but he went even further.
After everything Stephen did, the serving of others, the grace he offered those he met, the kindness he showed those who despised him, he went even further and in the face of a sham trial where he, an innocent man, was about to be executed, Stephen prays, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” just as Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
That, my sisters and brothers, is what I believe earns you a standing ovation from the Son of Man, or it at least did for Stephen. The radical love that enables you to see the face of God in your enemies, to see your enemy for who they are capable of being, not for who they are, to have such grace and compassion you can forgive your enemies even as they wrongfully kill you.
I am fortunate to have never faced such adversity as Stephen did. Honestly, if faced with that adversity I don’t think I could respond with the grace and compassion Stephen demonstrated. However, it is my prayer that I will continue to grow in spirt and truth, with the sanctifying love of Christ, and will one day be able to do “greater things than these.”