The First Stone

There are so many debates flying around and accusations laid against Christianity and our response has been so misguided.

I, of course, will now add my wisdom and insight to clarify everything for everyone.

Yeah…

I’ve heard many times, over the years, the phrase, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”  These are the words of Jesus and we love pulling them out when we’re confronted by someone for doing something wrong.

The story is about a woman who was caught in adultery that some religious jerks wanted to trick Jesus with.  They knew that Jesus was kind to prostitutes, to tax collectors (worse than prostitutes if you’re setting up a scale) and sinners.  He claimed he was there to heal that type of person but the Hebraic law stated she should be stoned, well her and the guy she committed adultery with, ummm…

Anyway, they thought that because of Jesus’ kindness, he would contradict the Law and let her go.  And I think that’s how we want to use his words even now.  Couple of problems though.

He could have thrown the first stone.  He was “without sin” and was God in the flesh and holy and all that.  He could have killed her and been “right” to do so.  No denying it, she had sinned.

He, because of love, chose not to.

Second problem, we want to compare our actions with hers.  She sinned, I sin and no one is allowed to judge me for it.  That’s what we would say.  But we’re different.  She didn’t deny what she had done, didn’t want anyone to say it was ok.  She knew what she deserved.  She held on to no hope because she knew she was condemned.

Our actions more closely resemble the thief on the cross.  No, not the one that Jesus said would be with him in paradise.  The one who said, “if you’re the son of God, save yourself and us too.”  Mocking Jesus, hurling accusations against his power and identity.

Weird that Jesus didn’t talk to him at all.

He didn’t want to repent, didn’t want to honor God and submit to His authority.  He just wanted to be allowed to continue living, doing whatever he wanted.

Jesus still stands there, holding out his hand of forgiveness and love, acceptance and restoration to those who ask for it.  Who want Him more than their own lives.

But He is holy, He is God and will not accept less than His best for us.

I have no hope but Him.

It’s the wrong question

A friend of mine asked me the other day, “So all the religions, anybody who believes differently than you Christians, we’re all just screwed?”

And the short answer is, “yep.”

But as I thought about it, I realized what I should have said.

The idea is that there have to be multiple paths to a loving, compassionate Father.  If He wants us to make it, why not provide a thousand ways to get to Him.  COEXIST, you know (with all the different symbols).

But, of course, this first denies that all religions are exclusive.  A good heaven-bound Muslim cannot follow other faiths also.  A nirvana-bound Hindu can believe all sorts of things but they have to believe in multiple gods, not one God.

It also denies our depravity.  We are so lost, so already screwed, that we don’t deserve a way to God.  We can’t work hard enough, think holy enough, live righteously enough to make it.  It shouldn’t surprise us or offend us that there is only one way.  The miracle, the grace is that there is anyway to make fallen humanity right with a Holy God.

And finally, it denies the gift.  The death of humanity began when we said, “I don’t trust you, God.  I don’t think you know what is best for me.  And, if you do, you are hiding it from me.”  And then we sewed fig leaves together.  We made a way to cover our nakedness and religions were born.

And, just so you know, God doesn’t like any religion better than another.  I wonder whether He has a particular loathing for religious “Christianity”.  How many have been turned away from knowing and loving Him by the cruel, proud words of the people who think they’re so holy?

So, yep, we’re screwed.  But equally, we’re blessed.  God made a way.  Jesus did come as God in the form of man.  He did die on a Roman cross as a Holy sacrifice for our sin.  And He rose, victoriously conquering sin and death, paying, fully, the price for all I’ve done, all we’ve done wrong.

I don’t need another way to His presence, His peace.  I’ll take the one He gave.

Then, He can answer all my other questions.

Holy!

Hágios – different (unlike), other (“otherness“)

Holiness is something we attribute to God.  It carries the idea of reverence, perfection, divine.

He is different, unlike anything else in the universe.  Trillions of stars, planets, molecules, atoms, cells, living creatures but there is only one God.  It is, in my opinion, the greatest evidence of His loving nature.  Paintings and popular culture would show a holy god as someone who would look down on all those beneath him, condemnation exuding from his icy stare.  But the reality is not the same.

His holiness can’t be assuaged, it can not be circumvented.  You can not call Him God without an understanding of His complete holiness.  But to see Him as something other than perfect love, misses the depth of His holiness.  Man’s idea, my own ideas, of perfection carry feelings of hatred, of disgust, of alienation and abandonment.  But these realities, the reality of Hell, was not birthed from God’s holiness but from rebellion, our rejection of Him as God.  Condemnation is a creation of our sin, and the pride that says, “I will set myself up as God.”

True holiness is coupled with the idea that we are not something “other”, not “different.”  We are created in His image but not Him.  Therefore, that holiness is complete only in capturing, training, redeeming what is unholy.

Maybe you are thinking that I’ve lost my mind or that this is some intellectual discussion that doesn’t matter to everyday life.

God called us to “be holy as I am holy.  Be “other” just like Me.”  And we scoff at this knowing full well that we can never be perfect.  We can’t get it right so why even try.  But I think we miss life, miss His love, miss His joy by adopting that attitude.

In my prayers today, I want to take the attitude that I CAN enter in to His holiness.  I can find His “otherness” by entering into His presence.  I can be like Him as I give myself to Him.  I can experience life by laying my life down on His cross.

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I’m Angry With You God!

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I’m reading in Leviticus right now and finding that I’m responding emotionally to the Law.  So many things made you “unclean.”  And if anyone touched you or your clothes or your bed or the pot in your hand, they became unclean too.  Rules that made everyone treat disease as if it was the sick person’s fault, dictums that made everyone treat each other with distrust and distance.

So why did You do it God?  Why make rules that could only lead to hatred of each other, hatred of self, hatred of life?  Why enforce a weight that no one could bear?

The Priest could touch goat’s blood to purify the altar.  But if a man touches the seat that a woman has been sitting on during her period, he is unclean.  It just seems crazy.  We’re left with either isolating ourselves from humanity, being unclean or lying about it.  We become unloving, unworthy or a hypocrite.

And, though it seems unrelated, why did You let Jesus be flogged before He was crucified?  Why did He have to wear a crown of thorns?  Wasn’t it enough that He died for us?  Did He have to bear so much pain before being nailed to the cross and bearing the excruciating weight of our sins, my sins?

Holiness.  The righteous demands of a Holy, Loving Father.  The Law that can only lead to failed attempts at self-righteousness or abdication of our place at His side.

On Valentine’s Day, in the year 2014, I live because Your holiness was so exacting that I had no other choice than to accept the blood of Jesus, not just dripped out of the sealed wounds on His hands and feet, but gushing out of His head, His back, His shoulders, His side.  I weep because You took this for me, my Jesus.  And I live because God’s holiness is answered.

Thank You, God!