It can be really difficult for us to hear the call to put down our stones. While on the surface, it sounds so easy – give up your anger, rage, hatred, and divisions. Give all of that up and gather together to work for the good of those called according to God’s purpose. It sounds great – even makes me feel great to write it. But for some, it is the most frightening thing that could be asked of many Christians.
Our faith can easily become defined by the stones we carry. We hold so tight to those stones that when pushed, they make our hands bleed – but we would never consider putting them down. Stones make us comfortable. They are our security pieces. They have made us who we are and how dare we become challenged to give that up. Stones become our closest friends. And when pushed, we just gather bigger stones until our hands are full and we feel good about ourselves.
Stones enable us to feel better about ourselves. If I can condemn you and show you all the things you do wrong, then I feel better about me. We begin to think… “at least I am not doing that” or “look at how wrong he is”. I become the hero, the good one, the chosen. We begin to sit from our mighty stone thrones and cast judgment on those who don’t follow our rules. We banish people who refuse to carry our stones. The stones have become the bedrock of our faith – not Jesus. But this was not the original intention.
I often have people tell me that I should preach more about hell and less about love. I am always taken back at this comment, no matter how many times I hear it. But I get it – condemnation is comforting for those who feel good about where they are sitting. And it helps others feel bad for not agreeing. But for me, I have to look at the life of Jesus. I don’t recall Jesus gathering prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners around the table to tell them to get their life straight or they were going to hell. It seems to me that the fact he was even willing to sit around the table speaks more welcome than anything else. And all the words to them speak abundant love. I don’t hear condemnation or judgment. I hear love. Where I do hear Jesus get angry is at the religious folk – those carrying stones. I do hear Jesus telling them they can’t hear his message because they are so stuck in theirs. I hear Jesus tell those who dragged a woman before him to put down their stones of contempt and judgment. And I hear non-judgment for the woman. I hear love.
When we become defined as Christians by our judgment, condemnation and divisiveness in the name of our faith – we have a faith built with stones. Jesus said we should be known by our love. The only way is to let those stones crumble to dust right before your eyes. This is only done with the love of Christ. It will be hard. It will challenge us to our core. It will change how we approach our faith. It is not about compromising what we believe – it is about finding out how those beliefs are wrapped in love.
May our stones crumble to dust – and may others see our love. May we welcome to the table. We don’t need those stones, Christians. Our hearts can be filled with the love of Christ. Live as the beloved.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”