I have a stone on my desk. I got it a long time ago, so the writing on it is faded a lot. But you can still just barely make it out, if you look closely and squint.
It says, “First.”
I keep it close to me, to remind me of the story from John, chapter 8, where Jesus calmly addresses an angry mob saying, “Let anyone among you who is without sin cast the first stone.”
I keep that stone on my desk because there are times that I really, really want to metaphorically hurl it in the direction of some person with whom I am angry, or who I feel is in the wrong somehow, or even sometimes who is just bugging me. Most of the time I can catch myself before I let loose; a glance at the “first stone” on my desk will remind me of that shocking story in John 8.
That story is shocking not because an innocent woman was about to be stoned by a crowd. It is shocking precisely because the woman really was guilty of the sin the crowd had accused her of, and yet Jesus himself did not condemn her. Earlier in the Gospel, John has reminded us that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the word, but to save it (3:17).
And so, if Jesus himself did not come to condemn guilty people, but to forgive … maybe we should try to follow that lead. It’s funny, isn’t it? We can see ourselves in the crowd, we can see ourselves as the woman forgiven; but how often do we see ourselves as Jesus? How often do we realize that Jesus doesn’t condemn the would-be stone throwers, either?
To borrow a well-worn cliché, it’s either forgiveness or it’s not. Or said another way, forgiveness is either there for everyone or no one. Now, that would be a shock!
Shalom – Andy B.