Sunday, October 30, 2011

On throwing stones

So, last Sunday we set the stage for why Jesus' statement "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" can't mean that we should never accuse anyone of sin because, truly, none of us is sinless. Madonna once tried to justify her sin, or at least escape being accused of sin, by invoking this verse once.

Did you do your homework as we asked? Did you search for Bible verses about rebuking or calling out sin? (Our favorite web portal, so far, for finding Bible passages is Bible Study Tools. Please leave a comment if you know of a better site.)

Let's begin by quoting a few verses, from both the Old and New Testament, which make it crystal clear that we ARE to rebuke others for sin. (At least "others" who claim to be believers.") These verses would make no sense if we could only rebuke if we ourselves were sinless first.

We acknowledge that one is supposed to check for logs in their own eye before attempting to "help" a brother. That is a check for hypocrisy. We will see how this applies to the lawyers and the Pharisees in Jesus' day when they accused the woman caught in adultery. Another hint to help you understand what Jesus meant when He told them "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her ."

From the Old Testament: "Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt." Leviticus 19:17 This is a command.

Strictly speaking, absent a similar verse in the New Testament, this is a command for Jews only. But, as we'll see, God echos it for Christians too. (We not Dispensationalist, be we believe in Dispensations.)

Note that, in addition to being commanded to do it, rebuking is supposed to be an act of love. ("Do not hate . . . ")

That's clear from Proverbs 27:5 "Better is open rebuke than hidden love."

That is, if you really love someone and see them sinning, you won't be "polite" and keep your mouth shut. In fact, if you keep your mouth shut, we call that "enabling." No, the loving thing to do is to confront the sinner. The prophets of old, and even the Apostles of new, often rebuked their listeners. (Unfortunately, with "shoot the messenger" results.)

In fact, jumping to the New Testament for a moment (you know, it's the same God who wrote the Old and New Testament), we read in Hebrews Chapter 12 that even God disciplines those He loves. If you're not disciplined, then you're a bastard child (some translations), not a legitimate child of God. In fact, isn't about 80% of the Bible rebuking?

The focus of the cite above is to prove that rebuking for sin should be a sign of love - as when parent's rebuke (spank) their children. It doesn't say that only a sinless God can rebuke, any more than God says you have to be a sinless parent to spank your children. More typically, God leaves it for us in the world to accomplish His will, and that included "casting stones."

Here is just one example in the Bible of the Israelites stoning someone to death.
Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them. Then the LORD said to Moses: "Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him."
If you know anything about the Israelites, they can hardly be said to be "without sin." Yet, God clearly commands them to stone the man to death.

Yikes! Why stone anyone to death anyway? Doesn't that sound harsh, like something only radical Muslims do today?

Well, like any punishment, lawyers and Pharisees (judges) can often abuse their authority. (Hint for the problem in this instant matter with the woman caught in adultery.) Truthfully, you've probably abused your authority as a parent once or twice, disciplining your children in anger. That is, with the wrong motive.

But, if you've been paying attention, you know God's motive behind stoning to death. He says it several times in the Old Testament. It has to do with love. From Dueteronomy 21:21,
Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you.
Consistent with God's love and desire to purge evil, consider what your attitude toward correction should be. Quoting one of our blogger's favorite verses: "Let a righteous man strike me--it is a kindness; let him rebuke me My head will not refuse it." This shows the humility of someone truly saved. They accept correction. We saw this in our jump ahead to Hebrews 12, above. There God states the obvious:
Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
By way of contrast, if you consistently shun rebuke, you're not a child of God. As when one seeks an Injunction Against Harassment to avoid spiritual rebuke, as did the late Melody Bodine and now Miss Melody Thomas-Morgan. God says in the Bible that's the sign of a fool. Proverbs 9:8 seems on point here.

Now, in the New Testament, we have the example of the Apostle Paul rebuking the Apostle Peter—in public!—for Peter's sin. (See Galatians 2:11-14.) But Paul didn't think he was sinless.

There's nothing in the Bible about Peter running to Judge Kenton Jones to get an Injunction Against Harassment. When Paul "struck" him, Peter accepted the rebuke, abiding by Psalm 141:5, above.

Now, here's a command for true believers: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently." Galatians 6:1 From other verses we know you start out gently, but if the "someone" is rebellious and will not be corrected gently, well then you elevate the harshness of the rebuke.

And here is Paul's command to Timothy: "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction."

Nothing about being without sin here.

There are more proof texts, but we'll end with this one which seems especially apropos. This the Apostle Paul's instructions to the church at Corinth, which we believe is appropriate for the Corinthians at the First Baptist Church of Prescott too. From 1 Corinthians 5:1-5,
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
So here the Apostle Paul commanding the believers at the church in Corinth (who, if you know anything about the Corinthians, could hardly be said to be "without sin,") to publicly cast the sinner out of their church - the New Testament equivalent of stoning. (Although, consistent with the New Testament economy, there is an opportunity to confess the sin and be restored, which the man above apparently did later.)

So are we agreed that Jesus was not saying that only people without sin can rebuke others for sin? If you're not doing it out of malice but rather in love, then you are commanded to point out someone's sin.

Next time we'll see what Jesus was talking about in John 8:7 when he told the teachers of the law and the Pharisees "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." We'll see it all has to do with "malicious prosecution," a problem still with us today with the Pharisees.

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