Lay Down Your Stones
-Show Love and Acceptance-
The saying goes that confession is good for the soul. I regret to tell that in my younger years I got very mad at my sister who is 4 years older than I. I got so mad at her that I picked up a rock and threw it at her from across the street and it hit her in the ankle. Tears came to her eyes from the pain and her ankle swelled up and caused her to limp. I wish I had laid down my stone like the religious leaders Jesus spoke about in John 8:
Jesus was teaching in the temple courts. Scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. We are not told a lot about this woman. Evidently she was married and was caught being unfaithful to her marriage vows. We don’t know much about the woman’s husband or the man she was having an affair with.
The sin of adultery usually begins with small compromises. Someone give a listening ear. The line of sin is crossed. This woman deceived her husband and her children.
The first time she went to the synagogue and heard the scriptures read concerning God’s law she felt sure that people would see guilt written all over her face. She thought they would find out. She thought God would strike her dead with a bolt of lightening. She vowed she would never see the man again.
No one found out. There was no lightening bold from heaven. She felt free to continue your illicit relationship even through some nights she would wake up in a cold sweat of guilt.
Today as Christians we too often have the flippant attitude that people are only human and immorality is something you have to live with.
The Gallup Organization asked the question is it wrong for a man and a woman to have sexual relations before marriage? In 1969, 68% of Americans said it was wrong, in 2001, only 38 % said that premarital sex was wrong.
We live in a society where immorality is becoming more and more acceptable, for the first time we’re handing our children a world where we’ve communicated that we don’t expect them to make it morally. Our schools and colleges distribute condoms like they were #2 pencils.
High-schoolers on the pill and in some cases, Christian parents pay for their daughters to be on the pill. They say it beats the alternative of unwanted pregnancy or of an abortion. The standard is lowered, and in parenting you will always get what you’re willing to settle for.
How about extramarital affairs, this is a very interesting statistic and quite telling about life in these United States. With data over the course of each year, since 1973, 69% of people said that it’s always wrong to have an affair if you’re married. Surprisingly in the past 28 years, that percentage has increased, and the past 3 years it has held, that 79% say that sexual relations with a person other than your spouse is always wrong.
At the same time the number of affairs has increased, the conclusion seems to be that people know that it’s wrong, they just don’t care.
Several years ago Ann Landers received the following letter.
I have a problem. I’m happily married to a wonderful wife, we have two children. I also have been seeing a young woman for the past 6 months. My problem is that I love both of them. What should I do? Signed, Confused – PS Don’t give me any of that morality stuff.
I loved Ann Landers’ response, she wrote:
The only difference between animals and humans IS morality. I suggest you consult your local veterinarian.
James Dobson, a family counselor, did a study that showed that couples that live together before marriage have a 50% greater chance of divorce than those who don’t. He adds, "That’s based upon 50 years of data and information." They also have found that those who cohabit also tend to have less satisfying and unstable marriages. I’m sure there are some exceptions to that, but it certainly underscores why God set up certain hedges of protection. Dobson also notes that the chance of being physically abused spousal skyrockets when the couple lived together prior to the marriage covenant.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of this Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
John 8 gives a vivid illustration that your sins will find you out. One night when the woman was with the other man and cheating on her husband, her worst nightmare came true. Men were outside waiting and broke in the door and seized her. No amount of begging for mercy would change their charge. They wrap her up in sheets and lead her away.
These men taking the woman to Jesus had quite a different motive than the men who carried a paralytic to Jesus. The men carrying their friend to Jesus on a mat were taking him to be healed. The men taking the woman to Jesus were taking her to be killed.
Jesus may have been teaching, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see the kingdom of God. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” The teachers of the law and the Pharisees interrupted Jesus and said: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.”
The religious leaders stated that the Law of Moses commands that those caught in the act of adultery be stoned to death. “What do you say?”
It’s interesting that the religious leaders only brought the woman and did not also bring the man to Jesus. Old Testament law demanded that both parties were guilty. Leviticus 20:10: “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife – with the wife of his neighbor-both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”
The primary purpose of the religious leaders was to trap Jesus and temp him – so they might accuse him.
If Jesus agreed to carry out the sentence of death then He would be going against Roman law. The Romans did not allow Jews to carryout the death sentence. If Jesus said “NO” the he would undermine the Old Testament law.
The first response of Jesus was to stoop down and write on the ground – as through he didn’t even hear them.
He may have wrote and then read what he wrote: “Whoever among you is without sin let him be first to cast a stone at her.”
Then Jesus wrote again on the ground – he may have listed the specific sins of the woman’s accusers.
One by one from the youngest to the oldest they dropped their stones and walked away with their heads handing low. John 8:9 - None were without sin –
Jesus turned to the woman and asked: “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one sir,” she said. Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
The way Jesus responded to his accusers and the way he treated people being accused shows us how we are to deal with false accusers and encourage people who have yielded to temptation and sinned.
I. Jesus Responded Kindly to His Accusers.
When you take a stand for Jesus and commit to following Jesus you will have people who make acquisitions against you.
“I never thought you would become a Holy Roller and religious fanatic!”
“If you were really smart you wouldn’t believe all the fables and strange stories in the Bible.”
“It’s too bad you have put your faith in God and become a Christian, now you won’t have any more fun in life.”
As the religious accusers picked up stones to throw at the woman caught in adultery, they were hopeful they would be stoning Jesus in the near future. They wanted to trick him into breaking their sacred law.
Jesus stayed out of debate with the religious accusers in a non win argument. Jesus quietly knelt down and wrote on the ground – he may have given a summary of the Ten Commandments. Then he stood up and said, “If anyone of you is without sin, let him throw the first stone.” Again he stooped down and wrote in the sand – he may have named sins of those standing with stones raised in their hands.
Those with stones in their hands walked away shamefully and quietly. Jesus and the woman were left alone. Jesus spoke to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Has not one condemned you?” “No one sir,” she answered. Jesus declared - “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus never condones sin but loves the sinner. He calls all who are living in sin to repent and leave their life of sin.
How do you respond to your accusers? Is there any truth in the accusations? Remember you are responsible for your attitude before God and the accusers are also accountable to God for their attitudes and actions.
You can only love God as much as you love the person you love the least. Anne Lamott made this timely comment: “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
The religious leaders – Jewish leaders and Pharisees forgot their calling. Jesus calls us to “seek and to save the lost;” and “To love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves.”
# There is a museum on Nantucket Island devoted to volunteer organizations formed centuries ago. In those days, travel by sea was extremely dangerous. Because of storms in the Atlantic along the rocky coast of Massachusetts, many lives would be lost within a mile or so of land. A group of volunteers went into the life-saving business. They banded together to form what was called the Humane Society.
These people built little huts all along the shore. They had people watching the sea all the time. Whenever a ship went down, the word would go out, and these people would devote everything to save every life they could. They adopted the motto: “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.” They were willing to risk their lives to save people they had never met.
Over time, things changed, the U. S. Coast Guard began to take over the rescue. For a while, the coast guard and the live-saving society worked side-by-side. Eventually the volunteers decided to “Let the professionals do it. They’re better trained and they get paid for saving people.”
The volunteers stopped living in little huts. They stopped searching the coastlines for ships in danger and stopped sending out teams to rescue people. They got out of the life-saving business.
You and I were made for the life saving business. If you are alert and not blinded by your self-preoccupation, you will see little mini-shipwrecks very day. A friend gets chewed out by her boss, a child fails in school, a couple get in a fight and become disappointed in their marriage, a coworker makes foolish financial choices.
In each case you have the opportunity to speak encouraging words or words that destroy a person’s spirit and vitality. You have the ability to offer acceptance, love, and hope; or you can chose to judge, condemn, and wound.
The Apostle Paul gives a clear guideline for human relationships: “Accept One another - Encourage one another.”
How do you respond to those who falsely accuse you? You respond in prayer: Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:44
Romans 12:17-21 the Apostle Paul says: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary:
If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
When you help kindness on false accusers you cause them to feel fires of shame on their head. With God’s help we can respond to accusers with kindness.
II. Jesus Responded in Love to the One being Accused
Jesus came to her defense of the woman being accused and saved her life.
Jesus knew the hearts of the accusers. He knew the religious leaders may have not yielded to the sin of adultery, but they were guilty of the sins of the spirit.
The Bible speaks about sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. Regardless of the sin, sin brings separation from God. Sins of the flesh involved appetites that get out of control: lust, greed, gluttony, drunkenness, laziness. Almost anything can be turned into an idol in our lives: playboy magazines, Krispy Kreme donuts, deluxe automobiles, even the television remote control.
The sins of the spirit are related more to our soul: pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, judgmentalism. Jesus made it clear to the accusers that sins of the spirit were equal to sins of the flesh in the sight of God.
Do you hold any stones in your hand?
A superior attitude
People stand all around us – loaded down with brokenness, guilt, fear and lostness, but we’re so caught up in your own self-righteousness we don’t even see them. Or even worse yet, we see them but are not moved with compassion. We’re not in the life saving business anymore.
Jesus had compassion on the woman. He in effect said: “I don’t condemn you, You are given another change by God, go and stop sinning. Be faithful to your husband, repent and become trust worthy.
Jesus emphatically said, “Go and sin no more.” Acceptance does not mean than a wife has to take abuse and tolerate whatever suffering her husband chooses to damage her with.
Showing love to another person does not mean you refuse to confront or challenge them to see that what they are doing or saying can harm others and damage their own soul. The goal of Jesus is to see lives changed. “Go and sin no more.” Jesus expected people to change.
Conclusion and Call to Commitment
We are all called to a life saving business, not to be the judge and jury condemning people we don’t like or agree with.
As Christians we need to be careful we don’t pass judgment on others.
Somebody’s kids are a little wild – people pick up stones of judgment.
Somebody’s marriage is not working – another stone is picked up.
The worship team chose the wrong king of song, or played it too loudly – more stones.
Stones may be highly polished, but they will kill just the same.
Whatever stone you may be carrying this morning – let go of it. Let Jesus pulverize it. God’s word says there is “therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Do you have any stones you need to let go of? Maybe against your mother or father, or against an ex-spouse, or against a boss or coworker, or against someone who hurt you.
You have carried the stone for so long you don’t remember life without it. You don’t have to be weighted down by stones. Put down the stone.
If you have spread gossip – go to the person you talked to and apologize. Set things right. If your heart is hard toward someone, do an act of service for them. Ask God to change your heart. If you have hurt someone, go to them and ask forgiveness.
Jesus loved and accepted people. Acceptance is not the same as approval all of one’s behavior.
Acceptance is an act of the heart. To accept someone is to affirm to them that you think it’s a very good thing they are alive.
Let’s pray and ask the Lord to show you any stones you are carrying. Through the amazing grace and mercy of God you can put your stones down.