Life with Jesus

A Line in the Sand

 At dawn {Jesus} 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 a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on 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.”

John 8:1-11

Sigh.

I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long. Honestly, I’ve been exhausted and heartbroken. The brokenness of this world is exhausting and horrific and troubling. I struggle with how to say what I’m feeling, knowing that I come from a privileged place where I can choose to ignore and be silent on the events and issues that are so heartbreaking. I also know that saying what I’m really thinking will cause controversy. Sometimes, it’s easier just to be quiet and let it all unfold.

Whenever I have one second to think without being asked to play Superman or light saber battle or get food because my son is a bottomless pit, my mind wanders to the story above, found in John 8.

I’ve always liked it because it’s dramatic and poignant. I always like the stories where the underdog wins. Honestly, most of Jesus’s stories end up that way. He flipped everything on its head. The weak will be strong; the strong will be weak. This story is the perfect, poignant illustration of that.

When I consider that story in today’s context, I struggle with it, because, I’m not sure where I’m located in the metaphor of that story as it unfolds almost daily today.

Am I a rock thrower?

Am I standing silently in the crowd?

Am I with Jesus?

Collectively, the American church has a reputation of being rock throwers. Our victims can be just about anyone who finds themselves without the privilege afforded by being white, heterosexual, affluent, a member of the dominant religion (individually, we may not be all of those things, but we’re all probably at least one). We loudly bring our victims before Jesus and demand a verdict.  We throw them down and proclaim our judgement. The “law” might even be on our side. We have our facts and our opinions and our “one friend who says…”

After we’ve ranted and raved and given all the reasons, we stand in he silence, awaiting the verdict. Surprisingly, Jesus crouches and draws with his finger in the dirt. He doesn’t screw up his face and yell. He doesn’t scold or scoff.  He doesn’t engage at all, actually. Just lets us sit there while our accusations and proclamations of judgement hang in the air. Everyone waits breathlessly for Jesus’s response.

Jesus’s answer 2000 years ago was the same it is today. “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”

Ya’ll. The world is so broken. It is so easy to point fingers and be ugly. The world around us, the media, Hollywood, tells who is in and who is out.  No one wants to be “out” and we claw and scrape and accuse to make sure that our place at the top is secure.

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”

Where am I in the story?

Truthfully, most of the time, I think that I stand quietly on the sidelines watching this conflict unfold. My eyes are glued to the woman, to those that have been cast so unlovingly down in the dirt in front of Jesus. Each cry, each sob makes my heart race. Even though I’m grieving and distraught, my mouth stays clamped shut, fearful of speaking out of turn, losing my privileged place, anonymous in the crowd.

My silence makes me complicit.

Though the stones that I hold in my hand aren’t as visible, that doesn’t make them any less real to the people standing accused in front of Jesus.

******

When the men realize that Jesus has issued an impossible challenge, one by one, they drop their stones and walk away.

What if?

What if, for even one man, Jesus’s words resonated so deeply within his heart that he dropped his stone and fell beside the woman to beg forgiveness? What if that man tried to hear and understand her heart and her hurts? What if just one of the men understood just how much damage had been done by their harsh words and scowling faces?

What if?

We do not know what Jesus was drawing in the dirt. It could have been anything. What if it was a line in the sand? What if he was asking those men to chose judgement or grace? A rock aimed to kill or forgiveness and mercy that heals and fulfills?

I have been convicted. I can no longer stand silently, while the vocal rock-throwers continue to hurl their insults and charges against people who are hurting, who are tired of it, who are burdened by our judgement.

Jesus has drawn a line in the sand and I do not want to be a rock-thrower. I want to stand beside Jesus as He issues peace and forgiveness and understanding and grace because I need all those things tooIf I err, let it be on the side of grace.

I’m done being silent. God hears the  cries of those that have been oppressed and misunderstood and slandered, the Syrian refugees, communities of color, the gay community, the poor, the criminal, the disabled, and I hear them too. Let me be clear about one thing: those groups being oppressed does not mean that they are powerless. The woman stood before Jesus on her own and received grace and forgiveness and power without the assistance of anyone else. While the rock-throwers are a very exclusive group, there is always more space on the side of grace.

A line has been drawn.

What side are we on?

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
– Desmond Tutu

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