Don’t throw rocks! Do we all know this is a bad thing to do? Good. We learned this when we were two, right? You throw a rock, somebody might get hit in the head. Getting hit in the head doesn’t feel good. Do you like getting hit in the head with rocks? Oh, you don’t? Phew! Me either. We all get this. It’s toddler logic. The metaphorical rocks are a little trickier, though. We don’t always realize when we are throwing them.
Here’s another thing we learn when we are very small. This one is a little more sophisticated. Maybe we learn this when we are at the mature age of ten. If I draw “lines in the sand” within my social circles I can manipulate the behavior of other people. If I tell that kid who sits across from me during reading group that he smells funny, or that he has stupid, dirty socks, which he has to change if he EVER wants to play basketball with me at recess time, I can manipulate him in to modifying his behavior in a way that is more pleasing to me. Maybe I think I’m helping that stinky kid. But I didn’t really do that in a very compassionate way, did I? The way I went about that belies my true motive which is likely, to feel powerful and in control – it’s self-seeking gratification. It isn’t the kind of tender, compelling, sympathetic, get-straight-to-the-heart kind of motivation that Jesus used, is it?
One of the most powerful examples in the Bible of grace-laden forgiveness, with life-altering results is found in the account of the woman caught in adultery, from the Gospel of John. A woman who was caught openly engaging in an undeniably scandalous act, is brought to Jesus on the Mount of Olives as he was teaching his followers, with the purpose to trap him in a public quandary, and to threaten, humiliate and degrade the worth, and even the very life, of the woman. They were, in fact, ready to execute her by stoning. How would I have responded in a situation like this? Would I be compelled to protect the poor woman whose life was being threatened, or would I be more concerned with sending the “wrong message” to those who were following my life and words closely? What Jesus did was remarkable. He responds in a very simple, yet very profound way. He reaches down to the dust and writes something in the sand. What he writes is uncertain, but the way these words or “lines in the sand” impact their receivers is undeniably poignant. So much so, that those previously bent on the destruction and demise of both Jesus and the woman, have no recourse but to drop their stones and walk away. The woman, then, is reassured of her safety and sent, in love, to continue to live her life, but to live it with a new purpose. Do you see what happened? Jesus did not condemn. There was no brow-beating or shaming here. But there WAS a heart-piercing result.
Do you know that Jesus does the same for us? He defends you from your accusers. Jesus draws lines in the sand, and He stands on your side! He is gracious to you in your suffering, even when that suffering is self-imposed. Be like Jesus for other people. Don’t stand on the other side of that line, like the Pharisees did, and throw rocks. Cross that line! Stand with those people on the other side of it, even in the midst of their mess. BUT – this is important – please recognize what else Jesus DIDN’T do? He didn’t placate her in her destructive behavior. He didn’t pat her on the head and send her on her way with useless platitudes like “Hang in there!” or “It gets better,” or “You’ll be okay honey.” He says, “Go and leave your sinful life.” He demonstrates a belief in her that is beyond her belief in herself. He demonstrates confidence in her to overcome the things which brought her low and made her contemptible. Please, do that for other people! Sit with them in their sorrow. Walk alongside them on their way to sanctification. Be patient with them in their process of recovery. Don’t normalize their destructive behaviors, but DO be an instrument of restoration and blessing.