He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.
– John 8:7
The man, a new believer in Christ, sat in the Sunday morning service fairly brimming over.
He couldn’t wait until the time in the Sunday service when the pastor asked for people to share what God had done for them. The minister finally opened the floor to the congregation. The new Christian enthusiastically shared his good news.
“I have smoked all of my adult life. I recently asked God to take away my desire to smoke, and He has. I’ve not had a cigarette since that moment.”
As the man spoke, the pastor’s face twisted in distaste. He thrust a pudgy finger at the man and said, “You took up that disgusting habit by yourself, and you can get rid of it by yourself!”
Whack. The verbal stone struck the man dead on. He sat in embarrassed silence through the rest of the service.
The new believer was my father. In the decades since the incident, he never did smoke another cigarette, and to this day he gives the glory to God. But he never knew why his words irritated the minister so much.
I wonder, too. I shouldn’t, because I find myself throwing large and small stones at people many times for no better reason than that they have beliefs contrary to mine or because they just generally irritate me. I catch myself casually criticizing others who dress differently, act differently, or engage in behavior I find unappealing. In some cases, I’m the one who has been wronged.
None of it, however, justifies a stoning. Just because my “stones” are words and attitudes instead of basalt doesn’t mitigate the damage I inflict on others.
When the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they weren’t interested in justice.
They wanted to use the Law to justify themselves and entrap Jesus. The One who had the right to accuse both her and them did neither. Instead, without a word, he allowed the Holy Spirit convict them of their sins. Then He let them walk away, adulteress and Pharisee alike, from the death they both deserved.
It’s so easy to see the faults of others. It’s more convenient than ever to notice and point out the failings of those around us. We’ve become a nation of busybodies and judges. Scribes and Pharisees in jeans. Lobbing stones in self-righteous fervor and entering our houses justified.
It escapes our notice that Jesus is nowhere to be found at the nearest stoning coming to you. He’s busy elsewhere, dispensing grace to a needy world. He already knows it’s an undeserving planet. No one has to tell Him that.
Freely you received, freely give.
– Matthew 10:8