Psalms 50; 147:1-11, Isaiah 6:1-13, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, John 7:53-8:11
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
So Jesus said to a group of scribes and Pharisees ready to stone a woman caught in the act of adultery. Before saying it, he bent to write in the dirt with his finger. One tradition says he was writing a list of the secret sins of her accusers. Whatever he wrote, one by one the crowd members dropped their stones and walked away. When all were gone, he sent the woman away without condemning her, but advising her to sin no more.
We probably prefer to identify with the woman in need of mercy, but we also all potentially have a rock in our hand ready to hurl. There’s an adage that what we dislike about others is a reflection of what we dislike about ourselves. We clench that private guilt or shame until its weight becomes so unbearable that we are compelled to fling it at others if only to find some relief from the burden.
We think of the woman as the one who finds forgiveness, but what if those stones dropped because the crowd realized that if this woman could be forgiven, they could too? What if they no longer felt the need to hurt someone else to soothe their own feelings of guilt?
Imagine the sound of all those stones dropping to the ground.
Thud! My own infidelity is forgiven. Thud! My anger at my brother is forgiven. Thud! My thieving ways are forgiven.
Thud! … Thud! … Thud! Thud! Thud! like the slow, building thunder of a cleansing storm.
The prophet Isaiah describes a vision in which a seraph (a type of angel) places a live coal on his lips. The seraph tells him: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” The phrase “live coal” might be better translated as “glowing stone.” By trusting God to deliver him through the pain, Isaiah found forgiveness. We must find the courage to name and face the glowing stone of our own sin before we can ask forgiveness, but afterward we can drop it to cool in the dirt. When we no longer burn, we no longer desire to burn others.
Comfort: If you ask and repent, you are forgiven.
Challenge: When you are angry with someone’s mistakes or transgressions, ask yourself what that says about you.
Prayer: Merciful God, thank you for the abundant forgiveness of your love. Amen.
Discussion: What flaw in yourself most irritates you when you see it in others?
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