“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. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” -John 8:7-11
At this point in his earthly ministry, Jesus was causing a raucous amongst the religious elite as to who he was, what his teachings meant, and by what authority he was performing miracles. The Gospel writer, John, says that he had already turned water into wine, cleansed the temple, spoke of being born again, interacted with an “enemy” woman from Samaria, healed invalids, proclaimed his equality with God, fed 5,000, and walked on water.
Now came a public test—a woman has been caught in adultery and brought before Jesus. According to the Jewish law, she was to be stoned. While they knew they weren’t perfect, they believed that their sins weren’t nearly as bad as this uncommitted, lying, cheating woman who just so happened to get caught. They believed they could take matters into their own hands to “rid the world of evil,” by imposing their judgments on whomever they wished.
But that’s not what Jesus proclaimed when this woman was brought before him. He knows this woman has sinned. He knows he alone has the authority to judge and condemn. With a word, he could’ve allowed the religious elite to stone her to death.
But he doesn’t.
And he is quick to tell this group of self-righteous men to follow suit. The ultimate throw down has been put out. Rather than simply telling the scribes and Pharisees to leave her alone, or worse, to go ahead and follow the law, he turns the finger at them. “Go ahead, stone this woman. But only if you are perfect and sinless.” We don’t know what Jesus was writing in the sand, but I imagine he had to chuckle to himself as he bent back down to the sand as the men, one by one, shook their heads in disappointment, and left.
Even the One who has the power to judge refused.
We live in a world of chaos, consumerism, destruction, and deception. We constantly point fingers at others, yet we are quick to turn away in defense when that finger is turned back at us. There are stones all around us, and it is so easy to pick them up and start hurling.
We like to think that maybe our sins “aren’t as bad as someone else’s,” so we must have a right to be able to chuck stones, even though we live in our own glass house. Jesus tells us, in Matthew 7, in his great manifesto, that we are to take out the plank in our own eye before we can even speak of the speck in someone else’s eye. We must be willing to work on ourselves, first.
Behind all of this is a need for love. The two greatest commandments for all of humanity are to love God and love others. The truth of the Gospel is Jesus and the truth of Jesus is love, grace, mercy, and redemption.
All too often, we get wrapped up with raising barriers, casting out judgments, and upholding an us/them mentality. This is contrary to the commands of love found in the Bible: love God, love your neighbors, and yes, even love your enemies. Raising barriers, another form of stone hurling, immediately ends any conversation we may have with those who think, act, or live differently from us. Instead, we should continue the conversation with grace and mercy.
Alan Woods puts it this way, “We may not all be on the same chapter, but we should be in the same book” (The Journey is the Destination). If we want to change the world, then we need to reduce the fog of legalism, self-righteousness, and judgment we bring down on an already clouded humanity. We should walk alongside people, encouraging them to a transformational life, and point them to the light of Jesus in a manner of love. One day we will all be judged, but the goodness and grace of the cross of Jesus is that we will be seen in light of the death and resurrection event.
That is the good news.
We may not all agree, and that’s ok. As long as we all agree that our only hope is in Jesus Christ. Romans 12:18 says, “If at all possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.” We are to be with people who are different from us—Jesus was. No matter what the world, government, or individuals say, we have one decision to make and that’s whether we’re going to follow Jesus or not.
Jesus didn’t even pick up the rocks he could’ve thrown at us; instead he picked up the cross for us. Maybe it’s time to drop the stones in our hands—the stones we’ve already cocked our arm back to throw.