A Stones Throw
By Linda Henley | 2023-10-05 | 3 min read
When you hear the word sin, what image comes to mind? Is it one of yourself or of someone else? Evangelist F.B. Meyer said, “It’s a terrible thing for a sinner to fall into the hands of fellow sinners.” That certainly describes John 8:1-11. Jesus is teaching in the temple and, anywhere he is, the Pharisees are lurking close at hand and searching for ways to snag Jesus in order to get rid of him. The scripture is the story of the woman caught in adultery. The account only appears in John and wasn’t in earlier manuscripts, but I believe the eternal truth of it, because it it’s one of those grace stories we all need to believe.
The Pharisees were ecstatic, because there was no way Jesus could answer without being trapped. After all, the penalty for adultery in the Jewish Code of Law was stoning for both parties. But, he surprised them by kneeling and writing on the ground with his finger. Many believe he was listing the accuser’s sins. Jesus then delivered the famous line, “You who are without sin, cast the first stone.” How many times have we used that as an excuse for some sin we have committed? Sinners love company!
One by one the accusers vanished and Jesus faced the woman alone. “Is there no one left to condemn you? Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” He called sin by its name, but what he offered was grace, a second chance, and a belief in her. Isn’t that the very thing for which all of us sinners long? Grace is that beautiful space between law and love, but, since we are recovering Pharisees, we can’t help but judge harshly when others sin differently than we do.
It’s interesting that we tend to reach for stones more quickly for those things that cannot be traced back to sin: poverty, homelessness, skin tones, ethnicity, gender, appearance, and the choice of whom one loves. We can’t even belong to the same denomination without throwing stones. We can’t exist in different political parties and not gather all the rocks we can carry. There is no grace in hearts that are crowded with self righteousness and judgment.
Let us remember that, even though grace is free, it requires something of us. We must empty the stones from our pockets and never pick them up again. We who have been wounded by them need to wade into the healing waters of God’s mercy. As we emerge, we will not only be dripping with blessing, but carrying buckets of it with which to wash the world.
“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea;
“There’s a kindness in God’s justice, which is more than liberty.”
Linda Henley, Congregation Member