A Stone's Throw

"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." (John 8:7)

Stoning is still practiced in some countries in the Middle East. It's a gruesome sight. The accused is wrapped head-to-toe in a cloth and tied up with rope. A pit is dug (waist-deep for men, up to the neck for women), and they stand in while people chuck baseball-sized shards with the intent to kill.

Because of Jesus' intervention, it hadn't quite gotten that far with Mary Magdalene.

How do we deal with the stone throwers of society? Sure, she was the one "taken in adultery". Caught "in the very act" (John 8:4). And it's not that Jesus simply dismissed her sin by letting her go. "Neither do I condemn thee..." (8:11) It would seem that Jesus was instating a new paradigm--of purity on the inside. Sure, adultery is wrong. It's sin alright. So is the mere thought too (see Matthew 5:28) But those who refuse to forgive--especially now that Jesus has died and risen--are guilty of the greater sin. To use the analogy with wood, "Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote (essentially a twig) that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite..." (Luke 6:42) But we're not talking about wood, we're talking about stones.

"And He beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builder's rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?" Listen: "Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." (Luke 20:17, emphasis mine)

Jesus is speaking in the above verse of Himself. The "precious corner stone" (Isaiah 28:16). When He speaks of someone "fall[ing] upon" it, it means someone who sees that their sin (whatever it may be) is toward God first and upon realizing this has a change of heart. "...a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." (Psalm 51:17). This could certainly be said of Mary Magdalene. When we throw away the stones of condemnation, knowing that our own sin towards God is enough of an offense, and forgive the person who inadvertently reminds us of this fact (yes), we essentially let them go free. Does this make sense?

The second part of Luke 20:17 is somewhat disconcerting: "But on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." This is speaking of those who've had the chance to repent of their hypocrisy but never did. Those who never truly got to know Jesus. Those who continued on, much like the Pharisees that Jesus addressed in both above passages, their hearts lapidifying (turning to stone) over time. God's judgment is harsh for those who resist and resist and resist. "He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." (Proverbs 29:1)

Modern-day Pharisaism says that all that's required to live the Christian life is to go to church, read the Bible, maybe give money when the plate comes around. And look good all the while. None of these things require the heart transformation that is exemplified in someone like Mary Magdalene. Think of the bedrock of love it would take for us to obey such a simple command as "go and sin no more" (John 8:11). Either Jesus is asking something that was impossible to obey. Or Mary received that which her soul and spirit were searching for by earning her living as a prostitute. I'd say it was the latter. How many of us, myself included, have recurring habits and follies and foibles that trip us up at the most inopportune time? If Jesus were to appear to us bodily and after looking in our eyes, filling whatever need we have, ask us to "go and sin no more", we certainly would have the grace to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us" (Hebrews 12:1). Conversely, when someone who might not have issues of sin and "addiction" simply tells someone who does, either verbally or by intimation, to do the same ("go and sin no more"), that "sinless" person better have all the love of Jesus to back up such a stark statement. And if not, Jesus has enough love to go around. Because, after all, it's not about giving up sin, it's about knowing Jesus. The Rock of Ages.

Please let the love of Jesus shine through you if you know someone who is living in sin and feel in any way inclined to call them on it.

"Thou art not far from the Kingdom of God." (Mark 12:34) A stone's throw, in fact.

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