Are we a society that throws stones?
My pastor recently preached a superb sermon, based on John 8:1-11, about throwing stones. Widely accepted as authentic, the account is not found in the earliest extant manuscripts of the New Testament, but it is beloved by many believers.
It's the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. She is dragged into the temple and used as an "object" by the scribes and Pharisees to test Jesus. Jesus comes to her defense, writes an unknown message in the sand, and her accusers "drop their stones" and quietly slip away.
Jesus said to her, "Woman, does no one accuse you?" She looks around and replies, "No one, Lord." Then Jesus says, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."
What is so important to remember about this story is that, according to the law, the woman was to be stoned to death! Jesus made it very clear that those who are without sin should be the first to cast the stones. And, conversely, those who recognize that they too are sinners should examine their own consciences and, as a result, refrain from casting stones.
What a lesson, especially for our society. Almost daily, we hear from folks who, it appears, believe they are without sin -- righteous and holy -- and consider it their responsibility to "set straight" those whom they consider sinners. They eagerly criticize those who believe and act differently than they do.
While the pastor was obviously applying the lessons of this occasion to those of us who were sitting in the pews, I could not keep from wondering if we have become a stone-throwing society. It seems almost fashionable for some Christians to seek out and throw stones at people who do not measure up to their "sinless -- righteous and holy -- standards." Never mind that they, themselves, have concealed "sin" in their lives!
I am reminded of a lady in one of my churches who did not believe that women should serve as deacons in the church; that is, until she was asked by the church to serve as a deacon. Without hesitation, she agreed to do so. Being the kind of person I am, of course, I asked her how she could agree to become a deacon in the church when she felt so strongly that women shouldn't serve as deacons. She said to me, "Well, God won't mind in my case!"
Somehow I believe that God really does "mind" when we hold others to a higher standard than we set for ourselves. I think God is displeased when we who are laden down with our own burdens pile burdens onto the backs of others. Only when we are without sin should we feel free to single out and throw stones at those people we perceive to be sinners.
The message came through loudly and clearly. Even if the passage is questionable, its lessons are not. It's not a good idea for any of us to throw stones.
Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.
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