Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Casting Stones

Where to begin?  My heart is aching.  My face is downcast.  This world is not a very nice place sometimes. And it is only becoming sadder by the moment. 
I am tired.  I am grieved.  And I am frustrated.  But there isn’t a thing, other than prayer, and maybe this little commentary, that I can do about it.  Prayer will most certainly do far more than my poor ramblings, but ramble I must.  Even if I am the only one that reads this, good can come of it, because maybe it will help me change. 
It is not a nice word.  Many think it is a stupid idea designed to make them feel guilt. Some think it is a joke  (There is no right or wrong, after all).  But it is serious.  Dead serious.  Because it leads to death.  Maybe not the heart-stops-beating-and-your-body-gets-put-in-the-ground kind of death, but one far more deadly.  One that cuts us off from The One that made us, and loves us, and so much more for us.  Some may laugh at my “feeble mind” that needs a religious crutch.  Some may scoff at my childish belief.  But in the end, the truth will be made known, and I doubt if any of us will be laughing then. Because this is serious business.
Recently, a regional ministry lost a public personality to sin.  This guy was arrested, confessed and now faces up to life in prison.  Twenty-five years at the least.  His life as he has known it to this point, has essentially ended.  The media is having a heyday.  And those that have been commenting on the news channels are enjoying the anonymity the internet provides to be cruel, outright disrespectful, and arrogant.  Christianity is being dumped in the mud, wrung out, and dragged through more mud as dirty and disgusting as that in my goat pen. 
So I wrestle with this question:  Is the world’s disdain justified? 
In the eyes of many, I am sure it is.  But let’s take a step back.  Let’s go back to that one little three letter word that started it all.
Whether the authority of the Bible is recognized or not, there is a verse that helps me put things in perspective.  You can find the story in the book of John chapter 8. Start at verse one and read to verse 11.  Now that you have the story, let’s distill it a bit.
          “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Ouch.  And I don’t mean the throwing stones thing.  Those hurt, too.  I mean the part about me.  I sin.  I wish I didn’t, but I do.  Most of us aren’t too afraid to say that we are “sinners”, we just qualify it.  “I’ve never MURDERED anyone”.  But guess what?  Sin is still sin.  Hatred in our hearts toward another is just like murder.  We may be smiling on the outside, but if we have hatred inside, we are sinning. 
We gossip.  Okay, I do.  I am trying very hard to stop, but I still sin in this way.  And when I admit that, the general response is, “Oh Honey, I hear ya’. Don’t we all?” and it is followed by embarrassed giggles.  But when someone confesses to a sexual crime against a child (or multiple children), the polite, understanding tittering becomes a cry not unlike the one Christ heard in Pilate’s courtyard.  “Crucify him”.  The voices just sound a little different and more modern language is used: (I will skip some of the more colorful choices)  “I hope he kills himself.”  “What a dirt bag.  I hope he rots!”
Sin is sin, people.
 I am not excusing sexual predation of children.  I am not advocating it.  Neither am I advocating or excusing the attitudes of those casting stones of hatred.  Just because the freedom of speech allows us to spout vile words of condemnation doesn’t mean when we do we aren’t sinning or that we are any “better” than the one at whom the stones are being hurled. 
Some sin is “illegal”, meaning against the law of the land, but some is not.  It isn’t nice to talk about someone behind their back.  It isn’t kind to hurl insults, but it isn’t  “illegal”, at least in a court of law.  But every sin, even the kind that “doesn’t hurt someone else”, is sin.  And it earns us something very serious.
When we mess up, we expect to feel some repercussions, but in the end, we hope for compassion and forgiveness.  Remember that verse about stones?  Jesus said those words.  Jesus ALONE could throw that first stone.  Jesus was the only one in that crowd that had no sin.  And we all know He picked up the biggest, baddest stone He could find and hurled that baby at the woman caught in adultery.  Right?
Actually, no, He didn’t.  That’s right. He didn’t.  He chose to forgive.  He chose to show compassion.  And while those sins that are so heinous as to be illegal cannot go without proper punishment, neither should those of us that have sin be quick to condemn, smear and assault a fellow sinner.  Look at that passage again.  Jesus was writing in the sand.  I have heard it speculated about what He was writing.  Maybe the sins of those standing there with stones in their hands?  I hear stones thudding to the ground.  Maybe He was naming names.  There go some more stones.  How many were left to accuse the woman?  The only one with any “right” to do so. 
 We should pray that God works in the heart of the wayward one, just as we should be praying that God will work in our own hearts.  We should offer forgiveness, even as we plead for that same forgiveness from others.  And we need to recognize that when we begin to think we are better than someone else because they have sinned “worse” than we have, we better watch our step.  There are several other verses that speak to that.  The most straightforward of which is Proverbs 16:18

          “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

So before you start your stone collection and get your pitching arm in shape, you better be sure that your knees have developed some callouses, your spirit some humility, and you are prepared to fend off the stones that will surely be aimed your direction.

“Father, I ask that You would take the ashes of this tragedy and form them into something that is beautiful.  It will never be as You created it to be.  It will always be changed by the evil perpetrated against it.  But You make everything beautiful in its time.  When You shine Your light into the darkness of this world, beauty always arises. Thank you for loving me, the worst of sinners, and providing a way for me through Jesus. Keep me humble before You and give me compassion for those around me. Be with each and every one involved in this particular situation, from the victims, the families, the co-workers, the public, and the one choosing to sin all the way through to the ones choosing to cast stones and call down curses.  Bring Your healing.  Bring Your grace. And Bring Your love.  For only You have any right to throw the first stone.  May Your justice, and Yours alone, be served.  Amen.”