Thursday, February 25
In John 8 we read the familiar, perhaps too familiar: 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.
Christ of Maryknoll by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM
A chilling call to the church’s own failure in justice seeking is painfully present if you replace “civil rights activists” with “Methodists” or “Christians” in this passage from the New Jim Crow, where Michelle Alexander writes, “Challenging mass incarceration requires something civil rights advocates have long been reluctant to do: advocacy on behalf of those labeled criminals. Even at the height of Jim Crow segregation—when black men were more likely to be lynched than to receive a fair trial in the South—NAACP lawyers were reluctant to advocate on behalf of blacks accused of crimes unless the lawyers were convinced of the men’s innocence.”
Are we, comfortably nestled in our churches, inured to the raw accusation present when Jesus says to us, “let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”? The men who wish to stone her to death are not asking Jesus a sin question, they ask him for a legal opinion. The writer of John captures perhaps the most powerful amicus curiae brief in history, God asks us to see our guilty and the criminal siblings not as foreign to us, not as one of us who is lost, but as us.
Action step: today, with brutal honesty question how you feel towards the murderer, the rapist, the abusive spouse, and the drunk driver among us. Is there someone in your life, your congregation, your family, or even in the mirror for whom you cannot find compassion as it is modeled by Jesus in John 8? Ask Jesus to help you lay down your stones. Antiracism is only real when extended into the most challenging corners of our own anger and fear.
Grant me justice, so that I may treat others as they deserve.
Grant me mercy, so that I don’t treat others as they deserve.
Grant me a humble walk with you, so that I may understand the difference.
Patricia McCaughan and Keith Yamamoto, from Race and Prayer: Collected Voices Many Dreams edited by Malcolm Boyd and Chester L. Talton (Morehouse Publishing, 2003, p.166).