The First Stone

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ON ONE OF THE POLITICAL BLOGS I often read, one Majestic Pundit—one of those imperial Talking Heads who condescend to share their wisdom with the ignorant masses—posted about Chief Justice John Roberts’ flubbing of the inaugural oath.

“Roberts,” he groused, “should be impeached and removed from office for this unforgivable error.”

Unforgivable? Well, at the very least, we now know what the “unpardonable sin” is!

The universal pandemic of the “sin virus” since Eden means that every human being—past, present, or future—is flawed. We ALL make mistakes. We ALL mis-speak, flub, mess up, fall short, stumble, and fail. In addition, we each develop bad habits through repeated wrong choices and give in to the basic weaknesses of our sin-damaged nature.

Yet Jesus said it’s only the sinless who have the right to cast the first stone. It’s only the ones without logs in their own eyes who have the right to remove splinters from the eyes of others. Be careful, Jesus said, about putting on your Judge’s robes and pronouncing sentence on others, because you’ll reap that same kind of “justice” when the tables turn and you are the Accused. In fact, He said, don’t even try being a judge…that’s My job.

If one sure symptom of being sin-defective is to make mistakes, another symptom is the overwhelming urge and need to condemn the mistakes of others.

How ridiculous would it be for one man on death row to rail against the guilt of the men in his neighboring cells? Yet there’s something in us that—in the absence of immediate divine grace—drives us to delight in the failings of others. “Gotcha” journalism thrives. Preachers and politicians thunder against moral lapses, too often in due course to be exposed as guilty of the very sins they condemned.

Just within the past week, an unexpected light focused on one of my own sinful behaviors. In my case, my failing wounded someone else about whom I care deeply (as almost always, our sins ultimately do). And I’m learning again that when I know I deserve stones but instead get…as I have…grace, it goes deep and opens the door to real repentance and the possibility of change.

It’s another reminder that—in a variation of Christ’s warnings to the hypocritical Pharisees eager to stone a sinner—we ALL live in glass houses and should think twice about tossing rocks around. And it’s a reminder to me that I need to remember well my own weakness before saying a word about the failings of anyone else.

It seems an expected given in this world that we find the “feet of clay” in other people…catch ’em red-handed…and then, with smug delight and glee, expose their failings, punish them, criticize them without mercy, embarrass them.

The woman caught in adultery (then brought to Jesus by the very men responsible for that sin) waited in a heap at Christ’s feet, writhing in a hell of shame and expecting any moment a hail of stones as soon as Jesus endorsed the judgment of her accusers.

But Jesus was all about covering sins…not exposing them. He was about redeeming, not condemning. He was about forgiving and healing, not judging.

He was about saving, not stoning.

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