I love how God drops right what I need on me. Sometimes I didn’t even know I needed it until the moment it lands right in front of me.
I spend a great deal of time discussing, debating faith with people, mostly on the internet. A frequent issue is biblical inerrancy and the adulteress about to be stoned. Last week it seems like the issue came up everywhere I went. There are some people in the world that really do want that passage removed.
So naturally I walk into church Sunday and what has the pastor decided to speak of? The adulteress about to be stoned and biblical inerrancy. But of course he did! God’s perfect synchronicity at work.
I am far more interested in what motivates people, the psychology behind wanting to edit the bible in away they find more appealing, the desire to discredit, change, or take out certain parts of it. Often people will do everything in their power to confirm their own desired bias and outcome. So sometimes I chase bits of scroll down rabbit holes.
Of course our pastor put up a photo of a bit of scroll…….looked just like the one I was hunting.
He did not put up a picture of Alice in Wonderland chasing yet another white rabbit down a hole or I would have just fallen out of my pew laughing, because that really is the essence of what I like to do for fun.
He gave an excellent talk, but two things stuck in my quirky mind. Is it biblical? It’s in the bible! That is kind of the very definition of “biblical.” A simple idea, but a good one because people sometimes write entire essays that will mess with your head, like “The adulteress about to be stoned is unbiblical!” There’s a certain logical fallacy in attempting to proof text the bible….using the bible as your authority and source for defining what is and is not biblical.
The second point he made is that the story of the adulteress about to be stoned is related to the essence and message of the gospel itself. Similar analogies of mercy and grace are found in multiple other places in the bible, the entire concept of forgiveness rather than condemnation, of restorative justice rather than punitive, repeated over and over again in other ways. In theory we could remove the adulteress about to be stoned, but we would still have evidence of murderers, thieves, prostitutes, and tax collectors, being forgiven, restored, walking away without paying a penalty for their sin.
That’s galling! That’s hard on the pride. Where’s the justice?? That’s offensive and unfair! It is supposed to be. The cross is an offense to us all. Jesus Christ forgives the unforgivable in us. He sets us free. In Christ there is no condemnation, He paid our ransom.
Myself, I like to peel back the layer of scripture that suggests who Jesus is speaking of and to when he says, “Let He who is without sin cast the first stone..” Yes, he is speaking to the men who have gathered with their stones, but He is also speaking of His own self. Who here is without sin? There is only one sin free Man in our tale and only He is worthy to judge her. He is establishing His own Divinity, He is declaring He has that purity of heart and clarity of spirit that can see her heart fully, untainted by His own sin biases.
So, “Let He who is without sin cast the first stone..” is another way of saying, let Christ be the judge….and trust and accept His judgment.
Here we are hundreds of years later and some people are still trying to stone that darn adulteress. I will extend some grace and mercy on behalf of human biology, men and pride in particular, their lack of enthusiasm about being cast aside and rejected in favor of another, or deceived and betrayed by love. It’s no accident that woman is an adulteress and not a thief or a murderer. There are no accidents in the bible. It is not meant to be easy. It was not designed to be comfortable. Scripture is meant to take you deeper, to challenge your own biology, your very identity, to force you to ask hard questions of yourself.
We are all the adulteress about to be stoned. When we condemn and reject her we are condemning and rejecting our own selves, and also failing to trust in the Divinity and mercy of Christ who says clearly, neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.