John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
There are moments in which you know with certainty your life has changed forever. I experienced that sensation each time I held one of my newborn daughters. The minute I looked down into their sweet faces my heart was slayed with an indescribable love. Instantaneously, I knew why parents stand at the side of murderous children. I understood why parents pray for a prodigal child for decades without any loss of resolve. I comprehended why parents can so easily forgive their children the most egregious of offenses. When your heart has been pierced with that kind of love, your heart toward that person is forever changed.
Today I reading Acts 7:44-60, the gripping conclusion to Stephen's moving sermon. He has demonstrated with great clarity why Israel and all mankind needed a Messiah to rescue us from religion and forge a path toward relationship with God. His audience is so enraged at his words they gnash their teeth at him. Stephen is immovable in his witness and testifies to the living Christ standing at the right hang of God (Verse 56). Now infuriated, they drag him out of the city and kill him. As Stephen draws his last breath, he looks to heaven and cries out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."
Stephen's heart was full of supernatural love. While it may come natural to love one's children like that, it is extraordinarily unnatural to love people in general like that. Yet Jesus Himself tells us that it is supernatural love that sets His people apart as genuine Christians (John 13:35). In his sermon, Stephen describes the Jewish people as "people with uncircumcised hearts". When God established his covenant with Abraham and promised to make a nation from his family, He gave Abraham the custom of circumcision as a symbol of this covenant. By cutting off the foreskin, one marked their son as belonging to the nation of Israel.
Circumcision was only an outward symbol of belonging. To truly belong to a family, one's heart must be circumcised. When I allow God to surgically remove all the thoughts and attitudes that no longer have a place in my saved heart, He can then replace it with an abundance of His love. It is only through allowing God to cut my heart, that it can ever be made whole, healthy and vital.
Jesus, I want to love people according to Stephen's example. You are the Master Surgeon. I give my heart to you today. Circumcise my heart and return to me only the pieces that reflect You. Today, I will allow Your supernatural love to flow through me to Your people. I will smile at the grumpy, wave at the cold, speak to the unfriendly and most importantly forgive the uncircumcised.