Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Throwing Stones

The eighth chapter of John's gospel tells the following story: a group of men brought a woman to Jesus who was apparently struggling to get away from them, as they threw her on the ground at His feet. They told Jesus they had literally caught the woman in the act of adultery. Now, John doesn't tell us if she was married and had been in bed with another man, or if the man was married and this woman knew it and still went to bed with him or if it was just two single adults who were not married but were engaged in a sexual liaison. The men quoted the Law of Moses when they told Jesus the woman should be stoned to death for her sin and asked Him what His judgment of her was.

There are a few things not mentioned in this story that are very important to take note of. First, per the Law of Moses, both the woman and the man should have been accused and stoned to death, not just the woman. John doesn't tell us why these men did not bring the man along to have Jesus pass judgment on him, but it can be argued he was either one of their friends, was a man of great importance whom they feared or they were targeting the woman for some unknown reason. But it is interesting that they only brought her, not the pair of them. Second, how did these accusers know this woman was "in the very act" of committing adultery? Again, according the Law of Moses, if they looked upon her naked body and/or the naked body of the man, which they would have had to have done if they caught them in "the very act," then they, themselves, were guilty of breaking the law, and should have been held accountable. Another important thing to note will be highlighted in a moment.

John's gospel says these men "continued to press Jesus" on what He would do to this adulterous woman after He had knelt down and begun writing in the dust with His finger. Oh, how I'd love to know what He was writing! Maybe it was the sins of each of the accusers; maybe He was writing the laws which they were demanding be carried out in their entirety; maybe He was listing all the woman's sins, we just don't know. However, Jesus rose from His writing and told the accusers that the one who was without sin among them should cast the first stone. It's interesting when I hear preachers say there was none without sin among them, so they dropped their stones, one by one, and left. But there was One without sin among them: Jesus, Himself! Jesus was telling those men that only He was able to cast stones at the woman, yet He chose to offer her grace and mercy rather than condemnation. In fact, He actually told her, "neither do I condemn thee."

Now, most people argue that after the men left, Jesus told the woman, "go and sin no more," so that makes her escape from stoning justified. Really? Jesus told the men to cast their stones if they were without sin BEFORE He told her to sin no more. It was while she was still unforgiven and before He gave her mercy that He told those men to leave her be. Just as we were granted mercy by Him while we were still in our sin. You don't receive grace and mercy AFTER your sins are forgiven; you're shown grace and mercy BEFORE they're forgiven.

Now, much is being said in recent days about the ruling, or lack thereof, by the Supreme Court on the issue of state's rights to ban same-sex marriage. It's interesting to me that many (if not most) of those who are crying the loudest about the sanctity of marriage, how same-sex marriage will destroy the institution of marriage and how all of history supports one man-one woman marriage only are those who have at least one previous wife who is still living while they're married to a second (or third or fourth.) Why is it that those who scream the loudest about same-sex marriage are willing to accept divorce and remarriage without a single comment? The Bible says not one word about same-sex marriage. Not one! Yet, there are many verses dedicated to teaching that marriage is not something you can extricate yourself from and enter into again as long as your previous spouse is still living. Jesus spoke about it, Paul wrote about it and Moses, of course, put it into the law that God gave to him for the Jewish people. It says flatly that if someone has been married and obtained a divorce, if he remarries he is committing adultery. Not only that, scripture says that by remarrying the man is causing his new wife to commit adultery, as well.

But, no one talks about this part of scripture, anymore. Or they justify their divorce and remarriage by saying their first marriage was before they got saved. Or they say they've been forgiven for their divorce and remarriage. Fine! So why aren't we willing to extend that grace and mercy to others? Even those who are in a same-sex marriage?

Of course, I've heard all the talk about "love the sinner, hate the sin" that everyone uses to justify their demonizing of those who are in same-sex relationships. The thing is, if you love someone you don't beat them over the head. And you don't ostracize them or bully them or throw them on the trash heap. And I'm so tired of hearing how if America allows same-sex marriage the country will be destroyed from on high. Really? Seems to me that 19 states have had legalized same-sex marriage for some years (one or two states are even into their 2nd decade of acceptance) and yet God's fire and brimstone have not rained down on anyone, yet. It was made very clear in the New Testament that we will not be held accountable for other's sins, we will only be accountable for our own. Yes, pastors will be held accountable, to an extent, for their flock, but not for the personal behavior of those who are members of their fold. Only for sharing the truth with them about their behaviors, attitudes and teaching them about Christ.

The biggest issue here is this: why are we trying to force those we consider to be non-Christian to act like Christians? To behave like Christians? Why are we trying to force people to follow what we believe? Heck, the Christian community can't even agree within its own circle on interpretation of the Bible; hence our having 30+ "denominations" of Christianity, each with a varying set of beliefs. Some churches even believe same-sex unions are permissible. SHOCK & HORROR!!!

My point here is this, we cannot legislate morality and salvation. We may believe what we believe, but that doesn't give us the right to force others to behave according to our beliefs. Jesus told us to WITNESS to the lost, and if they don't accept our witness to leave them be. There's nothing in scripture, anywhere, that says we should pass laws to make non-believers conform to our beliefs. In fact, the law was what Christ came to fulfill. So, in the words of Paul, "why are we trying to impose on others the yoke and burden of law that we, nor our forebears, could endure?"