There is a story in the bible (don’t jump off yet) where religious leaders found a woman having sex with another married man. They came to Jesus and used their knowledge of the old testament to coerce Jesus into administering justice based on religious law. They wanted to stone the woman to death and have Jesus condone it. They hated Jesus and wanted him to contradict the old testament teaching so they could punish him. They knew that he was compassionate and would likely defend the woman. Then Jesus said the famous phrase that many of us enjoy reciting today no matter what our religious convictions are (or not), “Whoever hasn’t sinned, throw the first stone.” The religious zealots we confronted by their own hypocrisy and left the woman alone.
To be killed by stoning would require violence from the religious zealots so despicable, it would be difficult to imagine how they would go about their day afterwards. I would imagine the woman’s head would have to be crushed or the wounds so severe that the loss of blood would finally cause her organs to fail. All this was offered to Jesus as a way to follow the wishes of God – unbelievable really.
What is more disturbing to me than the frenzy of the kill or the use of scripture to cause grievous harm, is the religious zealots looking for the stones in the first place. Imagine… in a quiet moment the religious zealot sifting through debris on the ground in order to find stones with a certain weight or edges to penetrate the skin. Whilst coercing the flow of hatred to silence compassionate thoughts and numbing their conscience, they are filling their bag with weapons in preparation. Holding a potential stone in their hands, studying the likely effectiveness of the kill. Feeling a sense of satisfaction now they were armed against a defenceless woman. Horrific…
It is the premeditation behind the execution of so-called ‘act of justice’ that shocks me. But… I think we are all guilty of the same act, albeit symbolically. It’s the quiet moment where we practise saying the words that will cut deepest to someone we dislike – the subtle conversation that teeters on gossip designed to create doubt – the use of ‘Godly conviction’ to justify the abuse of certain groups because we don’t agree with their view.
I find myself pondering how many times I have searched for stones meditating on the pain they would cause. I think we are in difficult times when there are many groups of people with huge differences of thought crossing our paths. Humans will do the craziest things when they are driven by the frenzy of others. I think the best way to avoid these moments of frenzy, is to not look for the stones in the first place. Come empty handed so we can offer a hand of compassion and avoid the violence of words or even worse, indifference.