Sticks & Stones
I'm reading in the book of Numbers right now and, I'll be honest, it's not my fave. Written in Numbers is the account of how the Israelites came to have such a formidable set of laws for living and worship. If someone sins, stone them. If someone is unclean, kick them out of the camp. These laws provide a picture of rigid, mandated holiness, not a picture of grace.
I think about the story in the New Testament where a woman was caught in the act of adultery and the townspeople were preparing to stone her. For a long time I envisioned an out-of-control mob taking matters into their own hands; vigilantes bent on exacting punishment. It took awhile for me to catch-on that they were doing what was expected of them in order to be righteous (right with God). They weren't out of control at all, they were doing their best to obey God's commands.
What's crazy is that Jesus stepped into that scene and stopped them all in their tracks. Knowing the law, He stopped them. Knowing her sin, He stopped them. Knowing His Father, He stopped them.
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.”
You see, that ancient law was a tool to show the futility of trying to merit God's love. It showed the Israelites the many millions of ways they couldn't measure up. Trim your beard? Unclean. On your period? Unclean. Someone died? Unclean. Ate some shrimp? Unclean. The list goes on and on. The law could never save. Instead it made abundantly clear their (and our) need for a Savior.
Back to the story, no one in the crowd could throw a stone that day. Those God-fearing people knew their law and were ready to defend it to the death. And, in knowing their law, they also knew that they too were unclean.
What issues get you up-in-arms, ready to pick up a stone and defend the law? Is your defense of holiness a crushing weight to someone else? What right do you have to throw a stone? Jesus, the only one who could ever claim perfection, chose mercy over judgement, grace over retribution. He chose to die on two sticks, rather than casting a single stone.