We find it in the New Testament, a story of a woman caught committing a sin, but so much more than that, the story of many religious people who thought they had laid the perfect trap to catch this man they called Jesus. I can imagine they had probably plotted - planned down to the most minute detail how the scenario would go down; the plan was to bring this sinner to Jesus - this woman they had caught in the act - I repeat, in the VERY ACT - of adultery...(sounds a little fishy to me - seems like this woman was awfully handy, if you know what I mean) they would bring her to Him, tell Him her story, and ask Him what He thought they should do with her. The Law said she should be stoned; if He said, "Do with her as the Law demands", they would accuse Him of being harsh, cruel, and judgmental. If He told them to let her go, they would say He was not upholding the Law - either way, it couldn't look good - at least, they'd make sure it didn't look good.
It couldn't fail, right?
Or could it?
As the story goes, they brought the woman to Jesus; they told Him what she had done; they told Him what the Law commanded they do with her; then they asked Him: "What do YOU say we should do with her?"
Jesus ignored them.
He stooped down to the ground, maybe whistled a little tune (hey, I'm using my imagination here!), and using His finger began to doodle in the dust at His feet. What did He write? The Bible doesn't tell us. Many have surmised, and I, too, think that possibly He might have written the names of some of the men (these Pharisees - religious leaders, no less) who had been involved in the same sin they were now accusing this woman of committing! Whatever it was, some of them started getting a little squirmy.
They pressed Him for an answer, "Master? What do say we should do with her? Should we stone her?"
Jesus, still stooped to the ground, replied in essence, "Go ahead...but...let the man who is without sin cast the first stone."
And He resumed His writing.
After some time passed, He looked up to find only the frightened woman looking at Him curiously.
"Woman," He said, "Where are those that accused you? Has no one condemned you?"
"No, sir," she replied. "They have all gone."
Where did they go?! Just a few moments before they seemed to be clamoring for her blood, but now, they had all gone - slipped away without a word! The Bible tells us that, "...they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last..." (John 8:9, KJV).
We know that Jesus then told this woman, in John 8:11, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."
We Christians often ponder about how Jesus didn't condemn the woman; we reflect on the mercy He showed her; we might wonder what sins the Pharisees had committed that made them slink away like a chastised dog creeping off with his tail between his legs.
We use this story as an opportunity to boldly proclaim: Don't judge!
And these are good things to think about.
But then life happens...and we forget about the stones.
...We see someone committing what seems to us to be a horrible sin, and we loudly exclaim, "How can they do (blank) and call themselves a Christian?!" *Whooosh! A stone flies through the air.*
...We see someone else's children misbehaving; we think to ourselves (or even say to our friend or family), "MY children would never do that! Why, I can't believe how some people let their children act/dress/talk/etc!"
...Someone stops attending our church for whatever reason, and we think, "Oh, They never really paid the price and got a Holy Heart. They didn't want to walk in the light - that's why they left!"
...We see someone who used to attend our church, and first thing we do is look them over to see how their dressed; maybe their sleeves are too short, their clothes too tight - whatever it is, we snort to ourselves, "Hmmph. I knew they never really had anything. If they had, they wouldn't dress that way..."
...Someone is a little short with us, and we get our feelings hurt and don't speak to them for months because of it.
...Someone disagrees with us on one issue, and we write them off - even though we agree on all the important stuff.
...We see pictures of someone posted on our facebook page, and without stopping to think what might really be going on in the picture, we take it at face value - for what we ASSUME is going on, and we become disappointed in that person and tell others how we've lost our confidence in them, 'because I saw a picture and they were doing (insert offensive thing here)!"
So many scenarios come to mind I could mention; you may look at the list above and think, Wow, that's silly. But all of the things I mentioned are things that I've actually seen and heard people say or do.
We're so quick to cast stones when it's our pet issue at the forefront. Many times we don't take the time to find out the whole story - we get a snippet of information from here, another from there, and another from over there, we put it all together and make our own story - which may be, and probably is, grossly different from the REAL story - the thing that ACTUALLY happened.
We want to write people off when they don't play the Christian 'Game' like we think it should be played; when they don't don't dress, talk, think, act or believe like we think they should.
When someone judges us for the things we do, we're quick to remind them, "Judge not!". We want them to show us mercy...but in our minds, we're still casting stones at others. When someone does us wrong, we want to throw the book at them - but when it's our pet sin, we want to gloss it over.
Yes, I'm guilty of it just as much as anyone. No, maybe not for the same reasons as you might do it, but I'm still guilty.
We want to remind others not to cast their stones our way...but we want to still keep our pile of stones - just in case - and every once in a while lob them at someone who doesn't measure up.
No, we don't use real stones (last time I checked, throwing rock at people was generally frowned upon), but our 'stones' are just a hurtful. Instead of rocks, we use:
Thoughts?! You might wonder how your thoughts can hurt someone. Well, what you think about (thoughts), becomes what you talk about - and a few poorly chosen words can hurt a person for life. Whether it is words spoken to the person, or words spoken to someone else about them, the things we say can do irreparable damage.
But still, even without ever speaking a word, our attitudes and actions can let someone know in no uncertain terms that we don't feel they measure up.
I don't know about you, but I've got enough things of my own to tend to - I don't need to solve everyone else's problems, too.
I need to remember that:
- ...my kids aren't perfect. In some areas they may be the most intelligent, well-behaved kids around, but in other areas, they need lots of guidance. Until my children are perfect and without guilt in ALL AREAS, I have no right to judge your kids. I'll work on training my kids; you work on yours.
- ...My parenting skills still need lots of help. I'm not always as patient and loving with my family as I should be. They need all the time and attention I can give them. They need my love and acceptance - even when they're driving me crazy and making me want to tear my hair out. My children need me to teach them how to go about doing this thing called 'life' - even when I feel so woefully inadequate at it myself. You work on being a perfect parent to your children; I'll work on being a better parent to mine.
- ...I need to work on my own relationship with God; am I doing everything He's asked me to do? Am I living a life of perfect obedience to Him? Do my clothes measure up to the standards He's given me? Do my attitudes always reflect Jesus? Do my words and my actions show joy make people feel loved and accepted, or do I make people feel like my life and the duties that have been assigned to me are a drudgery? Do I count my blessings as often as I should - or do I complain all the time?
I don't know about you, but taking care of that list right there is going to take up just about all the time I have; you'll have to worry about your own - I don't have time for that!
(a little inter-webz humor...)
I have an idea.
How about, instead of 'throwing stones' at people, we pray for them instead?
- When we see something that bothers us, instead of judging, how about we pray for the person instead?
- When we get our feelings hurt, instead of telling God (and everyone around us) how hurt we are, how about we just pray for the person that hurt us?
- When someone dresses in a way that we feel is inappropriate, instead of telling them -or anyone else- how bad they are, ask God to lead them, and direct them. (He can tell them how He want them to dress - I don't need to!)
I could go on and on...but you get the point. How much better off would the world - and the Church - be, if we would spend more time praying, and less throwing stones?
The truth is, God doesn't need our help! Yes, He does use people to help do His work, but judging them is HIS job - and He doesn't need us to help Him judge. He can show people how HE wants them to live, talk, dress, act, etc...He doesn't need me to help Him. If they don't have the set convictions I have, SO WHAT? God need me to be obedient and surrendered to Him - He'll worry about the rest.
I don't know about you, but I have enough on my plate just keeping myself in line...
Time to clean out the rock pile!