casting stones

The Finger Pointing Precaution

Years ago I experienced the stark reality that when I find myself pointing a finger of judgment at someone I need to beware that three fingers are pointing back at me. It forever etched in my memory a foundational precaution in forming opinions and judgments about others.

As a new believer in my mid-twenties I was working in an office environment where one of my fellow employees was a very sharp dresser. He was the cool dude of the office, knew it, and projected an air of superiority. Over the course of time his arrogance began to grate on me. One morning as I passed by his desk where he was standing, I noticed to my delight that he had missed a belt loop. Those were the days of the wide belt and tucked shirt, so it was an error glaringly visible to all. As I was inwardly gloating over his unwitting faux pas, the Holy Spirit pushed the pause button on my little celebration and interjected this thought – “Why don’t you check your own belt loop.” ….. At that, I quickly felt around my waist and to my chagrin I discovered I had missed a belt loop too! Need I say more? God certainly is not without a sense of humor when gently correcting us and teaching us life lessons.

It was a lesson that has stuck with me to this day. More often than I would like to acknowledge, when I am in the process of judging another, I hear the Holy Spirit cautioning me “Check your own belt loop.” In other words, check your own heart and behavior before you’re so quick to judge.

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Exposing the Deception of Intolerance

“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, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. John 8:7, 9 ESV

The modern idiom for this famous story of Jesus’ is “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” In other words a person should not criticize other people for faults they in turn may eventually be criticized for themselves. In this telling passage about a woman caught in the act of adultery, her accusers who drag her before Jesus are in the end faced with having to acknowledge their own sin and shortcomings. The Apostle Paul could not have summed it up more succinctly. “There is none righteous, no not one. . . For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:10, 23) That, my friend, is the common ground upon which we all stand.

Our sinful nature has a way of leveling the playing field when it comes to the whole issue of making judgments about intolerant behavior. In the story above, the woman’s accusers were intolerant of her sin while being unwittingly tolerant of their own. That is a common tendency in all of us, and not just the proprietary pitfall of the Pharisees.

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What if you were caught in the act?

Almost weekly someone is caught in the act of saying or doing something grossly offensive that becomes a topic of public discourse. Typically it polarizes opinion, provokes water cooler conversation, produces great talk radio and provides late night comedians great material with which to send us all to bed. This past week basketball star LaBron James and Congressman Anthony Weiner happen to be two of the poor souls dragged before the brutal court of public opinion. There is a vast difference between the nature of their alleged transgressions but I do not want to waste valuable print here going into the details, you can Google them to find that out.

More importantly I am compelled to focus not upon their transgressors but the way in which our culture reacts to people like them. To be honest I find the rush to judgment and vitriol that so frequently accompanies such public discourse unsettling and here is why. From a New Testament perspective, there is a stark contrast in the way Jesus treated people caught in some transgression.

One of the most riveting and convicting stories in the gospels is the encounter Jesus had with the accusers of the woman caught in the very act of adultery. (John 8:1-11) The religious leaders of the day humiliated the woman by dragging her into a large public gathering in the temple courts and making her stand before the entire group and Jesus. They were already in the process of stoning her with their words; now they were demanding that she be physically stoned. Truth be told, that is not unlike the treatment our culture gives to those today who are caught in the act of some unacceptable behavior.

But Jesus’ response was radically different. And here is my key point for consideration.

All those who are followers of Jesus should respond to transgressors the same way Jesus did.

At first Jesus did not say a word. In fact He bent down and started writing on the ground with His finger. Doodling or prophesying words of knowledge? We do not know what he wrote and therefore that is not important. The point is Jesus spent time waiting on His Father for the right words and right timing to respond.

Silence, in the face of a rush to judgment, is always the better part of wisdom. Holding your tongue and your peace when everyone else is jumping on the band wagon is doing it Jesus’ way.

Under the pressure of persistent questioning Jesus finally stood up and spoke. There is a time when God would have us stand up and speak up as well. But what Jesus said caught everyone off guard. He said to all the accusers “Let the person among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (vs. 8) And again He bent down and resumed writing on the ground.

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