The country singer Guy Clark, one of my favorite thinkers, borrowed the idea from Hank Williams, who got the idea from a man named Jesus. "Unless you've made no mistakes in your life, be careful of stones that you throw."
The news headlines have been replete of late with stories of falls and alleged falls, past and present.
First, Senator John Ensign acknowledges an extramarital affair. Then, South Carolina's Governor goes missing, and following his return, he acknowledges an extramarital affair, followed by another admission that he has previously "crossed the line" with other women as well. And, Michael Jackson's death resurrected some of the allegations formerly made against him and brought to the surface many comments about his eccentricities.
When people struggle and fall, what is our best, must fully human, most graceful response?
It is so easy for us to climb up on our moral high horses. Most of us possess one, and we rather like to ride it. Like sharks in a pool of blood, we often line up on the side of judgment or condemnation, registering our disgust or disapproval--silent or spoken--at what we think to be the faults and failings of those whose struggles are in plain view of our notice.
While climbing up to rock on our moral high horses may be the quickest and easiest response to the struggles of others, Jesus offers another narrower, more difficult, and more life-giving path. It is the path of non-condemnation.
Most of us remember the story, which the author of The Gospel of John records in the 8th chapter. The scribes and the Pharisees have brought to Jesus a woman who had engaged in adulterous behavior. As you know, the law on her behavior was clear. Adultery was not on the approved list of acceptable behaviors, and death was often the penalty for transgressing that law.
What was Jesus' response to the moral-high-horse-riding religious leaders? "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7).
Let's face it. You and I are often remarkably adept at stone throwing, so often failing to remember our own struggles, our own transgressions, our own need for forgiveness. And, Jesus is right. Whenever we pause--prayerfully pause--to recall our own faults and failings, a great miracle takes place. We come to recognize that our hands have no energy to reach for stones and our arms have no energy to throw them.
People struggle. Often, we struggle intensely. In the instances of Senator Ensign and Governor Sanford and Mr. Jackson, we sometimes struggle publicly. And, the most Christian response we can make to those who struggle is to refrain from throwing stones and to reach out our hearts in compassion and understanding.
Unless you have made no mistakes in your life, be careful of stones that you throw.