Posted by: mikenicholsblog | May 23, 2010

no stone thrown

Have you ever been caught between a “rock and a hard place” or faced a “catch 22” situation? No matter which way you turned, things were not going to work out easily. And someone would not be happy with your choice. Part of life’s journey is navigating hard choices with seemingly no good alternatives.

On one particular day, Christ came face to face with a “rock and a hard place” confrontation. He used divine wisdom to navigate the moment, and showed great grace in the process. In the “catch 22” moments that we are sure to face, His pattern of confrontation and mercy give us insightful direction.

Even the secular world will use biblical words like: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone …”. (John 8:7b) The scene that this phrase comes from is on the literal “rock and a hard place” day in the life of Christ that was mentioned above. Religious leaders were trying to trap Christ. While He was teaching they brought a woman caught in the act of adultery. Obviously she had sinned, but I believe just as obvious is the fact that she was little more than a tool to get at Christ. The leaders came and confronted Jesus with these words, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4b-5)

Humanly speaking, Christ was in a no-win situation. If He said “stone her”, then it would hinder His ministry as a “friend of publicans and sinners”. Would they then believe His message of grace and forgiveness? But if He said “No!” to the stoning, He would be in conflict with the Law of Moses. So what did He do? Christ, the Son of God, bent down and wrote on the ground with His finger. Great theories have been raised as to what He wrote. And I would love to know the answer! (a question for heaven, perhaps). After writing, the Lord straightened up and spoke the famous words, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. After those words, He wrote again.

Great wisdom had won the day. And with those words being said, the “religious” crowd started leaving, one-by-one, with the oldest going first. He had confronted the “rock and hard place”, as well as the hypocrisy of the crowd of judges. But what happened to the woman caught in adultery? After all had parted and they stood alone, Christ asked her …

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.
“Go now and leave your life of sin.”

(John 10b-11)

So what can we take from the stoning that never happened? First of all, be careful of the condemning spirit that can easily rear its ugly head. None of us is without sin. I am also reminded that appropriate confrontation is often needed in our own difficult moments. Truth tellers sometimes have to confront. And although we would never be as masterful in the rocky places, God’s wisdom is absolutely available to all Christ followers.

And of all that this real life moment teaches me, the most important truth is that people matter to God. The adulterer was shamed, but Christ forgave her, and I believe her heart was changed. It is easy to look outward with condemning eyes, but when we love like Christ, our words will be: neither do I condemn you.

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