Every family has its favorite stories of memories they enjoy retelling and ours is no different. We have a fair number between all of us that we chuckle over. One of my favorites relates to my grandchildren – actually four of them – from a number of years ago.
These four (two boys and two girls) were out for a walk in their neighborhood. As they were walking along some neighborhood boys began throwing little berries or pebbles at them (I cannot recall which they were.). The oldest grandson and first born told the other three to ignore what was happening and this would stop, but as they walked a bit further and it didn’t stop our youngest grandson and youngest of the four decided this was enough.
He took off running toward these ornery boys and yelling at them to stop throwing stones at his sisters. He was the smallest and youngest, but from birth has had a strong
sense of justice.
And guess what?
These boys began running away even though they were older and bigger.
Throwing stones or berries can be risky but tempting on the part of children of any age. Those on the receiving end usually are intimidated so the ones doing the throwing see no reason to stop throwing stones.
As we grow up, we tend to give up throwing stones, but this morphs into throwing words in the form of criticism and judgment. They slip out of our mouths with ease within our homes, neighborhoods, workplace, church, and beyond. We sometimes frame them as our opinion as if it justifies us but tend to ignore that much of the time, we are blind to the log in our own eye.
Sometimes we point out little things that we label overtly or covertly as wrong when those things are just different than our preference. We move on from there to pointing out the flaws and weaknesses of others while ignoring or missing our own. We speak of the biases of others without recognizing they reveal the biases of our own.
We point to what we believe are the sins of others, the failure to keep a moral code of conduct, while forgetting or rationalizing our own sin. We seem to believe we are very righteous so that we can sit in the seat of judgment on what we see in the life of someone else.
Over and over again we are admonished in scripture not to judge others and we miss that this tendency to accuse others of wrong is part of our sin nature, our DNA from the Garden of Eden. We barely pause as scripture reminds us, we will be judged as we judge others whether that is a parent, child, neighbor, friend, leader, pastor, or politician.
I think it may be because we aren’t dealing with the cross – our need for it – in order to be reconciled with God. And it gets reinforced as we compare our own weaknesses or failings to someone else’s and inwardly or outwardly decide we are not as bad as this person we have judged.
The road of transformation is messy, and, in the middle, we go down rabbit trails throwing stones of one kind or another at others along the way. It becomes such a habit that we fail to recognize what it says about us to those who hear, to children who are watching.
Of all the passages in scripture that speak of the danger of judging others, the story in John 8 of the woman caught in adultery is one that leaps off the page. It seems clear she should be judged. She has broken the law, and everyone knows it and with stones in hand they are ready to mete out justice from what they see as the moral high ground on which they stand.
They miss that their judgment points to moral flaws as well, as does their self-righteousness. They forget the basics – sin is sin. We are all guilty, all in need of the cross, all of us struggle with bad choices even in the middle of transformation. We forget that Lucifer is known as “the accuser of the brethren” and when we step into that role, we are more like him than we recognize.
You may ask, “what about justice?” Be assured there will be justice, but it will come from only One who is perfect and righteous in every respect.
It’s easy to see someone else is throwing stones whether they are stones, berries, or words, but the risk for us that we fail to recognize are those we throw.
To those standing with their hands full of stones to throw at the immoral adulterer in John 8, Jesus says,
“All right but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
Throwing stones can be risky.