A Stone’s Throw Away
by Angela Sackett
Can I share with you a little “aha” moment that God woke me up with today? It might not seem very profound, but here it is: stoning was a very common punishment in its time.
Doesn’t sound too deep, does it? Well, here’s where that thought led me.
Lately I’ve been exposed to some serious issues concerning moral weaknesses in my brothers and sisters. It seems like everywhere I look, people are sinning in pretty big ways. I’ve been focusing on what kind of discipline these people should receive, because so far they’ve had none. Where’s the justice, right?
Flash back, oh, maybe a couple thousand years. There’s this woman who’s known as the town tramp. Now, I’m talking about a serious sinner. She’s sleeping with everyone’s husband, and nothing’s being done about it. She’s got to be called to account!
If you’re familiar with Scripture, you know the story. Some men who are church leaders decide it’s time for action. They catch her in the act of adultery and drag her out to the most prominent Rabbi at the time (read: Jesus) and demand justice. Never mind the fact that she was probably naked and humiliated, never mind the fact that the man in the act with her was not mentioned in this punishment, never mind the fact that they sought permission to throw stones at her until she died!
What strikes me today as I think about the story is that the punishment they asked Jesus for was a common, legal punishment for her sin. They didn’t ask him to do something unheard of in their day. They just wanted her to get what they thought she deserved.
Instead, Jesus looked at the men and told them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And one by one, oldest to youngest, they dropped their stones and walked away.
I don’t think Jesus was necessarily focused on stopping those men from taking such a horrible action because of the nature of the action as much as He was reprimanding the state of their hearts.
Flash forward to today. How many times have you wished for someone you know to “get what he or she deserves?” I hate to admit it, but I have, and quite often.
Now don’t get me wrong, stoning isn’t legal today, and I certainly think it was a horrific and barbaric way to “punish” someone. But remember, at the time, it wasn’t out of the ordinary. Today we have a lot of punishments that are quite acceptable both inside and outside of the church; and often when we see sin going unpunished, we clamor to see discipline happen. Scripture is very clear that sin must not go unpunished, and there are obvious biblical examples of how discipline should take place. But I think the point here is that the heart behind the discipline is what matters.
Matthew 18:15-17a says this: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (NIV).
Two things jump out at me here. First, God’s Word says to go if the sin is against you. Second, you’re supposed to begin by talking to the person in private. And your goal is to “win him over.” You are seeking reconciliation, not vindication.
In my house, my children are not allowed to tattle. They have to speak to their brother or sister about his or her “sin” on their own before they’re allowed to come tell Mom or Dad about it. If their brother or sister still doesn’t listen, they have to say, “Go see Mom or Dad, please.” If he or she still doesn’t listen, then they can come tell Mom or Dad the problem. If they come before the process is complete, they receive the discipline. If they come seeking punishment for the offender (think of Haman and Mordecai here), then they receive that punishment. Their job as children in my house is to come seeking resolution and reconciliation.
So here’s my challenge to you when you see your brother or sister doing wrong: Go to them. Don’t take rocks. Take prayers and concern. Talk with them and challenge them to live in the grace of obedience to Dad. Because God’s goal is for us to know how awesome it is to live within the plan He set out for us. And I’ll bet if He looked into your eyes and said, “If you’re without sin, cast the first stone,” you’d have to drop your rock and run, too.
Angela Sackett is a homeschooling mother of five and has served with her husband in full-time ministry for over 10 years. She loves to read, write, cook, sing, act and scrapbook. She has been featured in both secular and Christian periodicals as well as on local and national television and radio with her devotional reflections and her desire to share cooking with children and their “grown-up helpers.” Recently a career change for her husband has meant new twists and turns in God’s journey for her family, but Angela is enjoying holding her heavenly Father’s hand as the adventure unfolds!