When you are moved to criticize, to complain, to blame, to condemn, to indict, or to publicly humiliate someone…and you feel rightly justified to do so, think on this:
Remember the story of the woman who was caught in the very act of adultery. The people took her to the public square to make an example of her, and ultimately, make a fool of Christ. Their claim was that according to their law, she should be stoned. Indicting someone was not only legal, it was popular: the people were ready and willing to do it. But they really wanted to Christ to make that “final condemnation” in order to trap him.
Do you remember what Christ did? He was silent, wrote on the ground, and waited while everyone else impatiently prodded him to say something…to accuse her. Then, he said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Then…he didn’t condemn ANYONE; he just became silent…while he allowed everyone else to look within, and ultimately condemn themselves. All left without question, and the stones remained unlifted, unthrown.
The only one who could have thrown the first stone…didn’t.
Too many of us are too ready, too willing, and too eager to cast the stones of judgement, of accusation, of criticism, and of condemnation. What we don’t often realize is that we, too, are guilty of doing what we’re accusing someone else is doing. We, too, are not “without sin”; we are often guilty of the same sin. Why are we quick to assume the role of Judge and Executioner, as if we knew better? I’ve found that when people find occasions to criticize others, to complain about them behind their back, to blame others for something or another, or just join in the backbiting rant sessions, I’m hesitant and wary about joining in. Why, because I feel like I’ve done the same thing somewhere else, to someone else, at some time. I don’t want to throw a condemnation to someone as much as I wouldn’t want that condemnation thrown at me.
If there’s any condemning that’s going to happen between us and Christ, it’ll be me…condemning myself, and you…condemning yourself. All he has to do is point to us and say, “If you are without sin, you’re qualified to condemn others. Otherwise, you have no say.” True Judges teach others to judge themselves with respect to truth.
Christ’s role as The Great Judge is not “to condemn”. Christ drives this very point home when he speaks to the woman and asks, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemnned thee?” She replies, “No man, Lord.” To which he finally declares, “Neither do I condemn thee.”
Nowhere does this account indicate that adultery, or any sin, is tolerated. Note that he says, “Go, and sin no more.” In other words, move on with your life, don’t wallow at who you’ve been, and change your ways to be better than what you were. Christ’s role is not to condemn us because of sin. His role was to offer us a way back because we will undoubtedly sin. That was the whole reason He came to earth to begin with!
For us who stand accused, ours is to “Go, and sin no more.” It is to let go of our past (not forget it), and renew ourselves to being better than who we were, and give thanks for being given another chance to make it right.
For us who stand before the offender, ours is to offer a hand of forgiveness in the same manner that He did and encourage them to “go, and sin no more”.
And for us who stand ready to throw stones of criticism, of anger, of fault-finding, of blame, of humiliation, and of condemnation… Let us put down our stones, and do unto others…as we’d have God do to us: Extend Mercy.
The LDS Lamplighter