The men of the Synagogue of Freedmen thought they were doing God's will when they persecuted Stephen,

Monday, 4/20/15

It the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Stephen was brought for trial before the Sanhedrin. His accusers were “certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedman,” and I think we should stop to consider who those men were.

The Roman Empire had Jewish communities in all of its provinces, and the empire had a trick for preventing those scattered populations from rebelling. They took, as hostages, a few young Jews from every port, and they detained them in Rome for five year stints. After freeing them, then, Rome pulled in other young Jews as hostages for five years.

In most cases the teenage Jews they turned into hostages were not particularly religious to start with; but during the five years of being detained because they were  Jews, they often became so religious that on release, instead of returning to their homes. they joined the Synagogue of Freedmen to participate in temple worship.

In Jerusalem they would be won over to the Pharisees’ point of view that despised the Christians for not keeping kosher, so, in persecuting Stephen, they felt they were standing up for God.

St. Stephen asked God to forgive those young men, and we should follow his example in seeing that the people who oppose us often are doing what they think God want them to do.

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