Throwing Stones at Sinners

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this! I know I promised twice a week, but I am still growing, and am still very much undisciplined. I pray for your patience as God works on me (and for His sake, don’t throw any stones!)

Ministry has kept me busy, and being a fairly recent (not even a year) as the pastor of a church, I’ve come to learn a lot about myself, my sin, others, and the sins of others. It reminds me a lot of the story of the woman caught in Adultery in Luke 8:1-15. Let’s take a look at the passage together:

John 8:1-11English Standard Version (ESV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Alot is going on there, isn’t it? Let’s take a look at the setting though: Jesus is at the temple, where he sat down to teach the people. Trying to embarass Him, the scribes and Pharisees bring out a woman caught in the act of adultery (now, where is the man? I thought Adultery [except in the heart] was a two person act?), and cast her down before Jesus, and quoted the mosaic law which stated she must be put to death. This is significant in many ways: they sought to test Jesus. He had taught with a power and authority that none other had. Teaching loving one’s enemies, and praying for persecutors. He taught the fullness of the scriptures, so, if He didn’t stone her, He broke the law, but if he ordered her to be stoned, he broke his own teachings. I love how he responds:

 

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 

I have no idea what He was writing, nor will I speculate, but how often do I, do my fellow believers beg for punishment and judgement on another? How often do I pick up stones and am ready to throw at sinners? And what did Jesus say? “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” I think we can learn from the scribes and pharisees here. How often do we seek to throw stones when we should be seeking to restore Souls to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ? How often are we ready to throw blame, and hurt, and vice when we should be seeking to introduce all people to this same Jesus who shut down the religious rulers with a single question? Friends, healing and restoration should be our goal, to win souls to Heaven’s gate our prize. We speak the truth, but in love. When we pick up our stones to throw at another, we say “your sin is worse than mine, and even though I am a sinner, I’m still going to look down on you.” We use our condemnation of others to justify our own lifestyles. As C.S. Lewis puts it,

“It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table. Now if we are agreed about that, I go on to my next point, which is this. None of us are really keeping the Law of Nature. If there are any exceptions among you, 1 apologize to them. They had much better read some other work, for nothing I am going to say concerns them. And now, turning to the ordinary human beings who are left:”I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I am not preaching, and Heaven knows I do not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people. There may be all sorts of excuses for us. That time you were so unfair to the children was when you were very tired. That slightly shady business about the money–the one you have almost forgotten-came when you were very hard up. And what you promised to do for old So-and-so and have never done–well, you never would have promised if you had known how frightfully busy you were going to be. And as for your behavior to your wife (or husband) or sister (or brother) if I knew how irritating they could be, I would not wonder at it–and who the dickens am I, anyway? I am just the same. That is to say, I do not succeed in keeping the Law of Nature very well, and the moment anyone tells me I am not keeping it, there starts up in my mind a string of excuses as long as your arm. The question at the moment is not whether they are good excuses. The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature. If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently?
The truth is, we believe in decency so much–we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so–that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behavior that we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves.These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in” (Mere Christianity. 1980. P. 7-8).

We should act as Jesus did, respond to sinners as He did:


10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
“Neither do I condemn you; Go and sin no more.” It is not ours to condemn, but the one without Sin! We are not the judges of sin! Note, Jesus did not condone her course of action. He actually didn’t even forgive her, as she didn’t ask for it. He said “I do not condemn you, give up your life of sin.” Redemption is something we all must seek on our own, but it takes a kind and loving hand helping one up, not an angry hand throwing a stone.

Does this mean we give a free pass to sin in our lives? By no means! We should seek to expel it at all costs! Do we give license for our christian brothers and sisters to sin, and do we turn a blind eye? No! We correct, and try to restore (1 Corinthians 5, Matthew 18:15-20 and Galatians 6 all have a lot to say on this), and if not, we let the leadership of the church handle it. It is not our place to condemn, but to seek restoration. Let’s learn from the pharisees and scribes, and throw our stones down (though I don’t remember them actually having stones), and walk away, leaving the judgement to the one who is more capable than we are.

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