Updated: Mar 26, 2021
According to the practicing theology of many contemporary Christians, especially politically minded Christians, God so loved the world that He sent His only son to the cross to save wretched sinners like each one of us so that we “saved sinners” would be morally empowered afterwards to cast stones at “unsaved sinners” in the holy name of Jesus.
Jesus didn’t come to put the Jewish Law on steroids but to teach us a whole new way of responding to sinners. This was underscored during a dramatic confrontation Jesus had with a self-appointed posse of Jewish activists who had dragged a woman caught in adultery to Him and dumped her at His feet. According to the letter of the Law, her “morally correct” accusers could have legally stoned her on the spot. At the very least, her accusers were doing exactly as “John the Baptist” had done when he publicly denounced Herod for his adultery. But Jesus would have none of this. In a completely unexpected move, Jesus stopped this posse of moral police dead in their tracks. The old ways under the Law were out and a new way was in. There was a new sheriff in town and the law would be handled differently now.
Instead of placating their moral outrage, He used this opportunity to establish a higher law – a law that offered mercy instead of a “religiously correct” sentence of judgment & death. It came as a profound shock to Jewish sensibilities. He was establishing, once and for all, a radical new example for us to follow. His message was not about the letter of the law which kills but the “Good News” of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness which gives life. Jesus completely undermined their self-righteous posturing with this simple statement: “He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” Yes, when all of her accusers had dropped their stones in shame and left, He gently told the woman to go “and sin no more” but not once did He publicly denounce her or shame her before her religiously correct enforcers even though she had broken one of the great commandments. In so doing, He dramatically underscored God’s love, mercy and forgiveness while showing each of us our own unworthiness to denounce others for their sins by self-righteously lording the moral “high ground” over them.
When you examine the life of Christ, He often denounced the sins and self-righteous hypocrisy within the religious hierarchy of Israel, but His scathing rebukes were never directed toward the common sinner – NEVER! They were only directed toward the religious, condescending, judgmental individuals of His day who had sunk to such a pitiful state of self-righteous pride, arrogance and judgementalism that they spent their lives smugly thinking they were morally superior to others while pointing their fingers at everyone and everything that didn’t measure up to the letter of the Law (something they were utterly incapable of doing themselves). The result was that the spiritually sick, misguided and hurting multitudes were shunned and alienated from God. Instead of being introduced to a loving God, all they knew of God from His followers was condemnation and contempt. Are things really so different today - especially among Christian political activists?
Having spent a number of years as a self-righteous, judgmental, condescending Christian, I know, firsthand, how wrong you can be and still be right according to “the letter of the Law” or the spirit of “religious correctness”. I also know how passionately you can feel about being God’s spokesman in standing against those outside the church and I know how quickly we can cast a stone. I know from years of experience how you can misrepresent and even undermine the true “spirit” of His message by being “morally correct”. Yes, I am intimately aware of the dynamics of grasping stones and casting stones all in the “name of God”. I also have come to know more intimately His timeless message of “Good News” which has always offered life - not condemnation.
Despite a lost and dying world Jesus still seeks to reconcile men and women through Love - not alienate them through condemnation and hate. Even if His messengers misrepresent His message, they cannot corrupt the truth. The spirit of His message is still the same - “it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance.” The “Good News” produces life; the bearers of judgementalism and condemnation only produce death. This is a lesson the contemporary church of America has largely forgotten in their quest to be society's moral police, political watchdogs and torchbearers of truth.
This simple story serves as a timeless wake-up call for many Christians – especially in America. It’s time to get off of our moral high-horse and drop the stones we have been so passionately grasping! Yes, I confess that occasionally I am tempted to cast stones too but I’m still fighting the fleshly urge to be the world’s litigator and judge.