“The law of Moses commanded us to stone such women. What do you say?” – Jn 8:5
The scribes and the Pharisees bring an adulterous woman to Jesus. And since they are trying to entrap Jesus, I assume they were voyeuristically creeping outside of her home. They were waiting to catch her in the act. And when they do, the religious leaders drag the poor woman to Jesus. She’s just a pawn in their game to take Jesus down. “The Law says to stone her,” they say. “What do you teach?”
Now, there’s no doubt that the woman did something wrong. Jesus knows that. But Jesus looks around at a group of men – each one with a few stones in hand – and each one is ready to throw. The woman is fearfully shaking in the middle. All around her, people are gathering stones. And unless a miracle happens, she’ll die for her sins. Because all around her people are gathering stones. They’re waiting for Jesus to say, “I agree with Moses. Do what you have to do.”
Our world teaches us to gather stones. And we’re waiting for any excuse to throw them. Every time we gossip, we throw a stone. Every time we silently withdraw from someone we love, we throw a stone. Every time we shake our head in disgust at another person’s behavior, we throw a stone. We see the speck in the eye of every face we see – except for the one in the mirror. All the while, a giant redwood is lodged in our own eye. And because of that, our vision is blurred.
Of course, Jesus knows this. And so he gives them permission to stone this woman on one condition – they have to be without sin (Jn 8:7). The person without the redwood in their eye can go ahead and stone her. Of course, they all walk away. The Spirit convicts each of them. They all put down their stones.
Being a follower of Jesus is about putting down our stones. That doesn’t mean we walk around saying “all is fine, there’s no such thing as right or wrong, if it feels good then more power to you.” No. What the woman did was wrong. The man she cheated with was wrong. And every person who dragged her to Jesus was wrong. Part of loving a person is “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). And it’s impossible to love someone if we don’t tell them the truth when they hurt themselves or when they fall into a pattern of hurting other people. And if we keep reading the story, Jesus lovingly confronts the woman. But he’s not holding a stone when he does. In other words, there’s a difference between condemning and loving; between judging and discerning. And the test is this: do we have a stone in our hand? And if so, do we want to throw it?
FOR TODAY: Have the courage to acknowledge the many ways that you gather stones. In other words, how do you hurt people? Who do you want to see get hurt? If you answer these questions – “I don’t. No one.” – then I’m afraid you’re in denial over the Redwood still lodged in your eye. You see, a miracle has happened. Not everyone has to die for their sins. And even if they did, we wouldn’t be the executioner. And so start chipping away at that Redwood. And put down your stones.