Us humans are a forgetful bunch, especially when we think forgetting comes to our advantage. My example this time? When Jesus came upon the woman caught in adultery, and He drew a line in the sand. He told the crowd that whoever was without sin should cast the first stone.
This left all of the people there without much to say. They couldn’t argue with him and they had no good defense in light of their sinfulness. So they dropped their stones. How could you do anything else? I couldn’t stand there next to Jesus, hear His words about “he who is without sin, cast the first stone,” and then hurl a stone.
But did dropping their stones change the fact that the woman had sinned? No. And while Jesus didn’t condone a bunch of sinners stoning a fellow sinner, He didn’t shy away from the fact that her sin was still sin. In fact, the part we like to forget or leave out, is where He approached her and said, “Go forth, and sin no more.” Wait, what? He didn’t make an excuse for her sin. He didn’t tell her to live in her sin and enjoy it. He didn’t empathize that “oh I know, sin is fun darling. That’s okay. Just you know, don’t get caught next time.” He told her, without pomp or fanfare, to go and sin no more.
I think we can all learn from this story. First, we must drop our weapons. We are all sinners. We are all guilty. But Jesus paid for our sin. (Thank God.) Stoning another sinner, literally or figuratively will not get anyone, anywhere. Second, we must call sin, sin. And when our sin is called sin, we must not ignore, defend, or make excuses for it. Jesus works in our hearts and calls sin what it is, and tugs us toward doing better. Are we going to ignore him?
Time and place is relevant, people. If we are going to speak life to those around us, we have to consider time & place. And the relationship. I cannot walk up to someone randomly and say, “I know what your sin is.” I cannot instruct them to change or grow. I cannot forge a half-hearted friendship just to be in a better position to point their sins out. First, I must be aware of and addressing my own sin. And confessing it. Second, I have to be in the trusted circle of friends (as a friend, to be a friend, with no other motive other than to serve and love) before I can ever help someone else deal with or face their sin. Third, I must pray diligently for that person long before I approach them.
In fact, by the time I’ve focused on my own sin and taken it to the throne and prepared myself to avoid future temptation in that area, and built a deep relationship with said person, and gone to God on their behalf, I may find that there is no fourth step. No opportunity to point out their shortcomings. I may find that Jesus has already done that part, because it’s His part to do. Remember the woman? It wasn’t one of her fellow sinners that spurred her on to do better. It was Jesus. He defended her, just as He does you and I before Our Father, and He encouraged her to do better.
So let’s let Jesus do His work in our own hearts and the hearts around us, and let us be faithful to pray, to build relationships, to open ourselves up, to flush out the sin we struggle with, to admit to our temptations, and to move into a deeper relationship first with our Lord and Savior, and secondly with the people He put around us to love and to love on.