Thursday, April 7, 2011

The stoner or the stoned?

So I've been teaching youth group for about 1 1/2 years now. This Sunday, we did a lesson on John 8. It reads:

"At dawn, he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "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?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kep questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and 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."

This passage in the Bible provokes a lot of thoughts for me and led to a decent discussion among the youth group. There are several points made and several point of views that can be seen here. Whenever I am studying a certain passage, I try to picture it happening in my head to help me grasp the actuality that this is not just a story, but something that really happened. As I was reading this, I pictured this HUGE crowd gathered around Jesus, dressed in their robes and 'Jesus' sandals :) When the passage talks about the woman that got brought to stand in the front of the crowd, I instantly pictured this really beautiful, brown skinned woman with long brown hair and lots of jewelry and nice robes. After that mental picture popped in my head, I started asking myself why. WHY did I instantly think of a gorgeous woman as the woman who was committing adultery? Often times in life, it's the most common of people that do things like this--people we would least expect. What if it was your best friend's mom or your cousin or the housewife down the street? I think a lot of times, we glamourize sinners for some stupid reason--maybe to remove ourselves from ever possibly being THAT person, THAT sinner because "normal" people don't do things like that and by golly, WE ARE NORMAL!!!! Right?? :) I started thinking about this woman and how she must have felt. I think sometimes when we read scripture, it's easy to see the evil and to point out the mistakes we shouldn't make. But just imagine how she felt. She was caught IN adultery. What if she was dragged to the town squares half dressed because they caught her in a man's bed? How embarrassed, ashamed, disappointed, disgusted she must have been with herself. What if her husband was in the crowd of people that was listening to Jesus and saw her being threatened with death for adultery? Talk about putting yourself in someone else's shoes. Slip on THOSE 'Jesus' sandals and remind yourself of times you've been caught doing wrong, because as "normal" as we are, we're not perfect. It's totally humbling. We can only thank God that we weren't corrected in front of hundreds of people and we recieved our forgiveness and God's grace quietly on our knees.

After the pharisees keep taunting Jesus about whether or not to stone the woman, the passage goes on to say that Jesus knelt down to the ground and started writing in the sand. It never says in the Bible WHAT He's writing and it makes me wonder. He stoops down to write 2 different times and after the second time He writes in the sand, it says the people started to walk away until Jesus was left standing there with only the woman. What do you think He was writing? What was so powerful that people looked at His words, dropped their stones and walked away? I like to think he was writing their sins, one by one, in the sand.....John--stole from the church, Lucas--lusted after your best friend's wife, Sarah--denied me in your darkest times, Ruth--committed adultery. Why are we so quick to pick up stones? Who do we think we are that WE have the right to judge someone for the way they live? The fact that the people who were getting ready to stone this woman were sinners themselves doesn't justify what she did. But it does reiterate the fact that for as "Christian" as we can claim to be, we are more than happy to stoop down, pick up the biggest rock we can find and hurl at people who's sins are dragged out for all to see. How many people do you think were in the crowd listening to Jesus talk and then walked away from Him to join the pharisees that were accusing this woman? Would you still be at Jesus' feet, ready and willing to learn, or would you be in the mob, practicing your fast pitch so your aim will be perfect when the stoning begins? Oh to be a fly on THAT wall--to be able to see what Jesus was writing and to be able to see the looks on their faces when THEY saw what he was writing. Have you ever been convicted like that? I have been and it's a horrible feeling.

The last thing I thought about this verse was about the very end where Jesus says, "Then neither do I condemn you." For a minute, I kind of thought, "Man, this woman got off scott free! Here she was, standing face to face with Jesus and being called out on her sin and she just gets to leave!" But then there's the second part of the verse that says, "Go now and leave your life of sin." Yes, Jesus does let her leave, but not before warning her to leave her sin behind her. Thank you God for your redeeming grace. He DOES forgive us and sometimes it seems like His forgiveness is like the 'Get out of jail FREE!!!' card in Monopoly. We're excused and pardoned from what we've done but then we turn around and do it again with the next roll of the dice. I have to admit, one day I was driving with my son in the car and singing Jesus Love Me and then I flipped someone during the 2nd round (hey, we're being honest, right?). How hypocrital of me. I was being a 'do as I say, not as I do' parent and that, my friends, is NOT how I WANT to be. So Jesus will forgive you, but when you're running like crazy to get away from Him before he changes His mind, He will throw a reminder at your back to leave your sin.

So today I challenge you to think long and hard. Are you the stoner or the stoned? Which would you RATHER be? I think I'd rather be stoned because yes, I may have sinned and been called out on it in front of people, but in the end, I am saved and redeemed. It seems the stoners in this story still have a lot of thinking and learning to do. I don't know if you've ever heard of the saying that you have to take up your cross daily. But know this friends, if you're taking up your cross daily, you have no hands left to hold onto your stones.

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