There she was, afraid, ashamed, completely exposed. They hurled accusations as stones, finding their mark on her soul. She trembled before the witnesses now gathered to watch her undoing. Tears formed streams through the dust on her cheeks. She was thrown, naked, at the teacher’s feet. Adulterer. That’s what she was called. No one even remembered her name… He stepped in front of her, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” He uttered these words as stooped down, and began to write in the sand. All eyes followed the curious actions of this rabbi. She anticipated the first stone and hoped for the last one. Momentarily, the accusers forgot the woman and focused completely on the teacher they came to trap. They knew he would not stone the woman, his reputation was too gracious for that. The perfect set-up, save the woman, doom yourself. Their countenances fell as one by one they left. The dust of their shuffling feet a testament to the weight of hate. He shielded her from their eyes. The last accuser left. He turned at helped her up out of the dust. He sent on her way, forgiven.
Perhaps this is the great sin of my generation- we speak in haste and forget the compassion of grace. Words flow so freely these days, seemingly uninhibited by time or space, we hurl our thoughts into the world. There is profound wisdom in the words of the late Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Words create worlds.” Three simple words that stop me in my tracks many days. The words we utter create the world we despise. The vicious cycle continues once more as Christians, who are to be known by love, speak harshly and hastily about others. I watched this unfold yesterday and was left ashamed in its wake. I do not like being ashamed of fellow believers.
Somehow, we have forgotten the power of the word. Within the church there is a great disparity between the concept of grace, as shown in the previous parable, and the words we speak. We have become known, not for our love, but for our poorly spoken words. These words often border on contempt and carry immense undertones of judgment. Speak freely of sin if you have none. Throw your words if you are not also a target. Sure, you can do that. However, I long for one who will stand in front of the accused, the sinner, and take the judgmental glares upon himself. I long to see people willing to cast away another’s shame, and only after they have sent away the accusers, do they say “go and sin no more.” I long for those whose words reflect the beauty of the gospel and constantly carry the weight of grace.
May we always remember that each of us is relentlessly creating, speaking something from nothing, shaping thoughts into actions. May we constantly seek to taste the flavor of our words in the grand scheme of this world. There may be words, or phrases, we use among ourselves that make perfect sense within the spectrum of theology. However, we should always be cognizant of how those words are perceived by people outside that spectrum. Somehow, we must learn redeem words and speak in such a way that the hearer understands our heart. Language, dear friends, is the key to transforming this world. In the beginning life and light came through words spoken into darkness.