Sticks and Stones...
Remember the nursery rhyme? Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. That is about the biggest pile of baloney I have ever heard. Words tear down, destroy and sting our very souls.
The writer of Proverbs reminds us that the tongue is a weapon of destruction. In a myriad of ways I have been stung by another's harsh words, gossip and malicious talk over the past few days. What amazes me most is that these are not "worldly" people. These are people within the covenant of God, who call themselves Christians and attend church (some in leadership positions) every day.
One of my favorite stories of the New Testament is when Jesus is brought a woman about to get stoned (not in the modern way, but meaning about to get beaten to death by rocks). Two things strike me about the story. If you don't know it, the woman is brought to Jesus. The Pharisees (church folk of the day) say that the woman was caught in the act of adultery and the law allows for her to be killed in the public square. They ask Jesus what he thinks. Instead of giving them a long diatribe on grace and forgiveness, or picking up a stone himself, he kneels and begins writing in the sand. We don't know what he wrote, but wouldn't you like to know? I have always, in my "hermeneutical imagination" thought he began writing a list of sins that each of those with a stone in hand had committed. Then, instead of answering them, he simply says, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." The silence is deafening. Then there is the thud of rocks hitting the ground as the crowd disperses. Only Jesus, the only one without sin by the way, and the woman are left. "Where are those who would accuse you?" he asks. She replies, "they have gone." "Go and sin no more..." Wow! Forgiveness and reconciliation in one simple statement.
The ancient proverb says, "do not judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes." I have long been a staunch, sometimes overly judgmental evangelical. What I have learned, and am continuing to learn, is not to throw rocks. The people I disagree with most are those that I am becoming most burdened to reach. Not to convert them to my way of thinking, but to invite them to continue following Jesus with me and to drop their stones.
I am a sinner. That fact I am painfully aware of. Conviction is my burden in this life of faith but, thanks be to God, my partner is grace. God's unmerited, undeserved love. So, what of these who accuse me of eating with sinners and whose gossip stings my heart. My prayer is that they too will put down their rocks and join me:
On the Journey,