Some mornings, I sit on my front porch and listen to the birds. In the stillness, I find companionship with my coffee and God’s word. Despite the feverish pace of the world, these moments provide solitude. My spirit and soul are nourished. Then, at some point, I grab my phone and scroll through my social media feeds. Peace begins to dissipate. The birds’ chorus fades into a bitter backlash of human emotion as friends, acquaintances and complete strangers destroy each other with their words.
America has become masterful at throwing stones. In fact, we’ve gotten so good at it, we don’t even recognize it anymore. We call it freedom of speech. Or in Christian circles we call it righteousness. Somehow that makes it feel noble and justified.
This damaging rhetoric rubs my spirit down to its very core. There’s nothing that bothers me more than watching two human beings tear each other apart with their words. I find myself praying, “God, what can I do?”
Most days that prayer feels unanswered and the task seems impossible. But today, I feel like I heard God answer.
“Lay down your stones.”
There’s a familiar passage in the Bible of a woman caught in adultery. The religious leaders drag her to the feet of Jesus in an attempt to challenge His teaching. In their culture, the law said that her sin was punishable by death. What would Jesus say? Would he uphold the law, or not?
As she lay in the dirt, completely helpless and humiliated in front of the crowds, Jesus speaks up:
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” —John 8:7
Under the law, Jesus had every right to commend the stoning. Stoning the woman would have been a fair punishment for a terrible act. But Jesus demonstrates something here that is offensive. Instead of acting in fairness, He chooses goodness. Instead of justice, He extends grace.
But here’s the problem…
For most of us this is a felt-board story that we don’t identify with. It’s ad nauseam usage has diluted the depth of the message. And for most of us, we come up with a list of logical and justified reasons to hurl the stone anyway. As a result, we lose our capacity for grace. Because after all, she deserved it, right?
We now live in a culture where the dividing lines of faith are being drawn—a moment when those who follow Christ will be separated from those who simply profess Him.
Where do you stand?
Grace and Perspective
As Christians we are called to act under the jurisdiction of a heavenly kingdom. In effect, we should be known by our ability to lay down our stones, not by our ability to throw them.
Stones are heavy—a weight we weren’t intended to bear. However, most of us mistakenly assume that stones only damage the at-fault party so we rare back and let them fly. But the truth is, stones damage the thrower as well. You see, when you throw a stone you have to live with the weight of justice. Even if it’s not in the moment, you will reach a point where you collide with the need for grace. Because at some point, the world will be ready to hurl stones at you.
Our desire for grace will only be realized when the tables are turned. That’s because grace requires perspective. When the bullseye is on us, our perspective has changed. And that’s what Jesus was saying. It’s when you understand your own shortcomings that you have the capacity to endure with with shortcomings of others. Grace only grows in proportion to our understanding of our own sin.
That why it’s impossible to wear a WWJD bracelet while hurling a stone.
Justice is His Problem
When most people wrestle with this tension, the immediate response is, “But…” That’s because we like grace, but we hate extending it to others. Especially to those we feel are undeserving. But the truth is, there’s no compassion in stone throwing. Even if those stones are hurled at those who seem, well, compassionless.
If this offends your idea of fairness, let me ask you this. Is fairness really the goal?
What’s better, absolute justice or endless grace?
Here’s the good news, in God, you get both.
The joy of the Christian faith that so many Christians fail to recognize is that God gets to be the bearer of justice and through His empowerment, we get to be the bearers of grace. When we mistake our role and carry the weight of justice and yet refuse grace, we not modeling Christ. Under that paradigm, we’re modeling the world.
If you believe that Christ truly died for absolute justice, would you be willing to let that become His problem instead of yours?