Thursday, April 4th
Lapidate: to pelt or kill with stones
John 8:3-11 (NRSV)
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.
Lapidate is a new word for me, one I found when preparing these devotions. The word has an archaic meaning: “to pelt or kill with stones.” The word sounds much nicer than its meaning, doesn’t it?
In this story from John, the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman accused of adultery to Jesus, an act punishable by death from stoning. As the poor woman stands there, Jesus pauses and then simply tells the crowd, “Let anyone among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” Everyone drops their stones and walks away. For the moment, Jesus has helped people to rethink their actions and judgments.
It is good that the people dropped their stones. But I have to wonder… did anyone try to understand this woman’s predicament? Did anyone talk with her or try to get to know her better? Did anyone realize that the culture of their time made it nearly impossible for women to make it on their own? Did anyone want to hear her side of the story? Did anyone besides Jesus offer to help her? Did anyone ask, “If I were born under different circumstances, could I be in the same situation?”
It is easier to throw stones than it is to find solutions. It takes less time to judge than to join in friendship. It is more comfortable to distance ourselves than to draw near to those who differ from us.
It is easier to hurl than to heal.
What kinds of stones would Jesus have us drop today?
I think of the stones of judgment, legislation, violence, separation, detention, bigotry and exclusion thrown at immigrants and refugees, women having abortions, people of color, and those whose orientation or gender may differ from ours. All of these people are beloved by God. Jesus tells us to drop these stones, too.
And Jesus asks us to do more than that. He asks us to help foster a world where stones are no longer picked up in the first place. This isn’t easy. It takes time and effort for us to grow in understanding. To work together to help those who are in desperate situations. To check our own insecurities and prejudices. To revisit and research carefully the beliefs we have held for so long. To share our finances, expertise, time and voices to stand up for those who have faced far too many stones already. We are to lay down our stones and never pick them up again. No, this isn’t easy, but what we do for others we are doing for Jesus…
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (vs. 58-59)
All definitions are excerpted from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/
Photo credit: Aaron Burden on Unsplash