Don’t Be A Stoner
By: Al Robertson
In our latest book, we shared the story of Anna and Trey. If you want the full narrative, you can read it in chapter seven, Put Down Those Stones. But the short version is that their marriage was one step away from being irrevocably shattered because of a whole host of sexual sins and infidelities.
Even though Trey had a hand in leading Anna into sexual sin, when he felt betrayed, he not only didn’t freely admit to his own sin at first, but he took an aggressive and judgmental position against his wife. Those who know Anna and Trey, praise God that he wasn’t through with them or their marriage yet. But at the time, we all shuddered at the possibility that Satan had won the war.
Lisa and I were instantly reminded of the story in John 8 where “righteous” men dragged a naked woman before Jesus in an effort to trap him with a trick question about the law of Moses. What they said was a half-truth – that the law commanded that a woman caught in adultery should be put to death. What the law actually said was that both the man and the woman should be executed. But we can talk about double-standards later.
Lisa and I’ve thought about this woman a lot through the years since our marriage crises when adultery almost destroyed us. I’ve often imagined this woman, fully engaged in sexual intercourse with a man not her husband, hearing the roar of the mob as it drew closer to her house. Then the sheer terror of a door violently ripped off its hinges – turning her head only to see the angry throng casting daggers of judgment and hatred at her naked flesh.
But the worst had to be when she was forcibly dragged through the dusty streets – her nakedness on display for all to see – the wagging heads and gossiping tongues pronouncing condemnation on her guilty self. And all along the way, men stooping low to retrieve the perfect stone as an instrument of death – knowing that they were meant for her.
They dragged her all the way to the early morning Bible study that Jesus was conducting in town. He too had a crowd. Perhaps his disciples wondered how he would reconcile his love for the Law and his passion for mercy.
But Jesus, before he said a word, bent down and began to write something in the dirt with his finger. I wish we knew what it was he wrote, but it doesn’t matter. Whatever it was, it was the beginning of the moment when the “judges” began to bow their heads low in shame and release their stones. Maybe he wrote the names of the women they had committed adultery with. Perhaps he listed their sins. Maybe he was revealing their own secret thoughts of lust and greed. Or maybe he just wrote the actual words of Leviticus chapter twenty.
Whatever it was it seemed to give his next words more weight – “The man who is sinless can go ahead and cast the first stone.” Then he stooped and completed his sermon in the dirt. John’s eyewitness account says that, beginning with the older ones, the crowd dispersed without a word.
You know, that’s the trick when it comes to judgement; Satan knows that nothing is more distasteful to people outside of Christ than when believers position themselves as morally superior to all of the “sinners” out there. It’s ugly and it’s hurtful. It shows a failure to grasp the nature of the kingdom of God – that we aren’t a community of people who were pretty good to begin with, so God chose us from the billions of options to be in his kingdom. It’s not like any of us were the cream of the crop.
Back to Trey and Anna. Yes, she was guilty. What she did was reprehensible. But Trey was guilty too. Just as guilty. And there he was, picking up stones. He was locked and loaded – ready for punishment (hers, not his). I don’t think, though, that he ever considered saving one of those rocks for himself. I haven’t either. Most of us don’t.
The truth is that all of us like our stones. It takes the heat off of our guilt, I suppose. Or that’s what we hope. But it never works – ever. We will never feel better about our guilt because we create an alternate reality where someone else is more guilty than we are.
I’m trying to live by a new rule – before I pick up stones, I want to find out what it was that our Lord wrote on the ground. Or I want to at least use my imagination to consider the possibilities, since I’ll never really know. Whatever it was, it was life-altering for those men and for the woman.
And it was life-changing for Trey too. Until he regurgitated all of the moral filthiness that had dominated his life for years, he could not be free. All he could do was blame and throw rocks at his guilty wife. He had to come to a place where he vomited out all of his own guilt all for all the world and God to see (forgive the graphic language). He had to come to a place where he fully embraced the reality of his own complete moral failure.
What we’ve discovered personally and in being in the midst of countless other marriage crises in our role as ministers of reconciliation is that you can mark the beginning of a relationship’s healing on the calendar. It’s the day that one or both parties confess their guilt in full detail.
The best news is that God redeems the repentant. Almost as good as that news (or as a part of it) is that God will use transparent people like Trey and Anna and Lisa and me to be the facilitators of new life and redemption for people who’ve given up hope.
If your marriage is in trouble today, and you’ve been laying all the blame on your spouse, think about this: if everyone knew your secrets – if they knew your thoughts that you’ve kept all to yourself – if your secret lusts, greed, and covetousness were suddenly displayed as a hologram for all to see, what would you do with your stones?
I tell you what you’d do – you’d hang your head in shame too, and you would open your once clenched fists and let gravity take your stones back to the dirt where they belong. That’s what you’d do. And if your heart is soft toward God at all, you would also fall on your face before him and beg him to forgive you for ever picking them up in the first place.
“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” That’s a good rule to live by.