When you're between a rock and a hard place
There is a small rock that sits on the desk of my principles office at the Bible College I attend. He calls it the un- thrown stone. He told us that he used it during a sermon he gave on the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). This is the telling of an event from Jesus' ministry in which the pharisees, societies most strictly religious during the time of Jesus, brought a woman before him and the people who were publicly gathered to hear His teachings. They proclaimed to Jesus that the woman had been caught in adultery, and that according to Moses, she aught to be stoned to death for her sin.
“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?” (John 8:4-5).
Now this is where things could have gone very badly for this woman. It's funny that you don't often tend to think of her situation. The Bible says she was taken before Jesus by the pharisees. Taken from where?? Her home? The marketplace? Which place did they take her from before they publicly forced her to go before Jesus and a crowd of her neighbours? And what kind of force was exerted to get her there?? Indeed this woman was going through a terrible ordeal and you could be forgiven for thinking the height of it would be having her adultery announced in public amidst a group of people gathered for religious purposes. However, the woman would undoubtably have hit an all time low of fear, hopelessness and panic when the pharisees stated her impending brutal death as a moral and legal given.
I bet no one banked on this happening,
"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.” (John 8:7).
That must have been the biggest ever spanner in the works that the pharisees ever saw. And what happened?? Well the pharisees prided themselves on being pretty holy. They believed themselves to be on a higher level of holiness than everyone else, They were comfortable, confident and complacent before God. They genuinely believed they were doing so darn well at impressing God with their religious lifestyles. So what did they do when Jesus said,
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" ??
Well off course they all remembered they're perfect sinless state and started picking out the choicest stones the surroundings had to offer....
Not so much!!
'But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones',(John 8:9).
What happened here??
What happened, was that these strictly religious people suddenly saw themselves for who they really were, sinners before God. Wicked humans before a perfect, holy and righteous God. They were most likely shamefaced as they had to shrink away from Jesus with their reputations in tatters before the people they lorded their holiness over- including the very woman they had publicly humiliated.
It seems like an obvious situation to us doesn't it?? Well off course they are sinners, aren't we all? And what were they thinking to hold such judgement against another person. And just how far did they think they had the right to go in miss-treating that person for their sin/ sins/ sinful nature??
Well, hold up a minute! Do you realise that the people who have sinned against you are, as long as they exist on Earth, going to struggle with being bound by their sinful nature? Do you realise that you are bound in many ways by your sinful nature too?
Here's another one, how much miss-treatment do you "have the right" to dish out to a person because of their sins?
Most of us are far too spiritually proud (ahem, holy), to stone a person to death spiritually, but denting them a few times is normally fine by our human standards. Leaving a few cuts and bruises is ok. Maybe a gaping hole in the place they used to treasure the forgiveness afforded to them in Christ. I mean, as long as we don't take it too far in our stone throwing. As long as their is no serious spiritual fatality then a bit of judgement is fine isn't it??
"Jesus stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”... But when they heard it, they went away one by one..."(John 8:7-9).
This is actually really strange for us as humans to take-in. This right here was a complete, uncompromising surrender. The pharisees did not stay to argue how the woman was to make it up to her husband or the other parties involved. They did not state that their way of thinking was still the scripturally (today biblically)right way of thinking. They didn't insist on conditions of forgiveness. I don't know if the pharisees genuinely saw themselves for the selfish, self-righteous, cold-hearted people they were at that time, or if they still maintained their judgement of the woman- but they did walk away and that is what we must do when we choose to not throw the stone. We must walk away from the disagreement and the bad feelings and the number of judgement issues we can have with people including ourselves in life. We do not throw the stone- we have no right! We do not toss it a little bit- we have no right!! We choose to not judge, because we know we have fallen short.
"since all have sinned and continue to fall short of God's glory. " (Rom 3:23)
Here is a little something that is comfort for the judged, and a loving reminder to the judging. When Jesus had challenged the pharisees they all went away one by one...and so the woman was left on her own??
'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' (John8:9).
Beloved, the one who had received judgement was not left standing alone. She had received a defense from the Son of God Himself. She was a sinner and caught up in a sin that undoubtably caused harm to many, but she did not stand alone because of it, for Jesus Himself stood with her. It is so important to remember that God Himself defends His children against the judgement of others, not merely with wise and true words in this instance, but heirs of His grace, the chosen in Christ are defended by the Cross itself.
Christ Is Our Advocate
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins,we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2).
So here we are. finding ourselves at times to be between a rock (the un-thrown stone) and a hard place. The rock is the rock of judgement and the hard place is the place of forgiveness. I have found myself thinking of the word forgiveness recently. I am a wordy person and I tend to split words into sections to try and figure out their origins. Forgive = 'For' + 'give' to me. It seems down right impossible to give it at times, and so I have to wonder, has something been For-given (given for) in order that we may be able to forgive? I.e., was something or 'Someone' 'given for' us to be able to 'forgive'?
We already acknowledge He was given for the forgiveness of our sins...but do we realise that he died for the forgiveness of all?
"and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also forthose of the whole world. "
I strongly encourage you to get a stone. Keep it somewhere you will see it regularly, especially if you are struggling with judgement and forgiveness. Read the story of the woman caught in adultery. Sympathise with her- we have all been caught in sin.
And choose to say
"Neither do I condemn you"
Out loud, in your heart and in your mind.
God bless you.
More by this Author
Patch Adams is based on the true story of the man by the same name who dared to practice true compassion in a personal way with everyone he crossed- including patients in the hospital he worked in. He also went on to...
A critical exploration of the nature of Mark's Gospel as a passion narrative with an extended introduction.
The following is an exegesis of Revelation chapter 12, drawing from a wide range of sources regarding the meanings of John’s writings on this vision. In doing this, many commentaries have been consulted and a...