I suspect this discussion about stoning is troublesome to many. It should be troublesome to all of us. I think the real answer to that is not that the punishment is so harsh but that our lives have become so immersed in sin that we are shocked that God would make laws so “intolerant” and “unforgiving.” Let’s put it this way. God looks at sin much different than we do. Can we all agree on that? Therefore, it would be wise for us to understand it from His perspective, not ours. God is very clear about things. He deals with sin both here, on this earth, and eternally, after death. Did not Jesus say this? “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (Matthew 10:15) God isn’t through with these towns. Not by a long shot.
So, is this punishment meant for just the offender(s)? I don’t think so. I think a very primary purpose is to protect the innocent from being corrupted by those who practice sin. Here’s something that people do not like to think about Jesus as saying:
Matthew 18:2-6 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Can you imagine physically drowning someone in that way? I’ll bet they would kick, scream, curse, beg, sob, wail. Gosh, it would be horrible. Yet, Jesus said it would be BETTER to die that way. Better than what?
He wasn’t finished quite yet.
v. 7-11 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
Can we get the message? Sin is a big problem and an even BIGGER problem for those who cause others to sin. Rightly so. It’s one thing if someone uses drugs. It’s another if that person gives it to kids. Right?
Clearly, stoning was meant to remove people. Why? To protect the rest for becoming the same way.
Leviticus 18:24-30 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.”
Until we really let this concept of God’s hatred of sin sink deep into our core, we will always excuse sin. Sure, we may be offended by outrageous sin, but we will not be bothered by the small stuff. Don’t kid yourself, God is bothered by both.
So, where do we go from here? Start stoning people? Remember, I must be one of the stoned. Me. Scott Powers. Let’s face it, our world, particularly our nation, is so corrupt that there would be hardly anyone left. We aren’t able to drive out the sinners from our midst. And, I have been forgiven by my Lord. Yes, I have. My eternal punishment is over. Is that the end of it? Nope. Let’s consider the two examples of forgiveness we discussed yesterday. First, the adulterous woman. Yes, Jesus forgave her and she escaped stoning. Do you suppose that everything went back to normal – just like nothing happened? Hardly. She was forgiven, but the effects of her sin surely harmed her. If she was married, do you suppose her husband divorced her? Do you suppose the community scorned her? Remember, back then adulteresses were stoned to death. They looked down on that type of woman. Do you think for a minute she was welcomed with open arms? Not a chance. So, her sinful choice certainly caused her much pain probably for the rest of her life. Did she have peace in Jesus? I would imagine, but she didn’t have peace on earth.
How about David? Did everything go away once he repented? Remember, he should have been stoned for TWO offenses, adultery and murder. Let’s see what God said about that:
2 Samuel 10-12 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.'”
Those of us who have studied this will agree that this indeed happened. Forgiven? Yes. Consequences? Certainly. Some would say that David made matters much worse than they needed to be. He didn’t deal harshly with his rebellious, murderous sons. His inaction resulted in his being driven from the kingdom by his own son. On and on it went, yet David didn’t fulfill what was required of him. Why? I don’t know. One thing we do know – he didn’t make the hard choices.
Is there a lesson to be learned in this? First, I must accept my consequences and not blame anyone but myself. Second, I must change my ways or I can expect much worse. Remember the adulterous woman? Remember what Jesus told her at the very end? “Go, and sin no more.” That’s a tall order and one we must do our UTMOST to achieve, lest we desire to experience that which David did. Believers have an incredible advantage in this.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
I was given new life on June 13, 2007. Alcohol nearly killed me. On that day, God took away my desire for booze. I knew I was given a great gift. But, I also knew that if I was careless, booze would kill me. I KNOW that. So, I embraced my new life and immersed myself in it. I devoured the bible. I went to AA meetings. I went to church. I joined bible studies. I made a whole new circle of friends. That was the new.
There was another side of it – the old. What does Paul say about that? “The old has passed away.” Here is a list of things I completely, immediately abandoned. Things I walked away from.
Booze in any form, including “near beer”
Golf (because I always drank)
Favorite back roads (drinking roads)
Radio Stations (country music glorifies alcohol)
Friends (drinking buddies)
Business Trips (yes, some were primarily for drinking)
Clothing with booze emblems.
Memorabilia including pictures. (I have pictures without beer in my hand. I don’t need the ones that do.)
Jokes & Humor that celebrates alcohol and the lifestyle.
Dining places that were primarily bars
Entertainment in bars or centered around booze.
And I never looked back. I took this quote VERY seriously: “Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 9:62). Basically, I changed EVERYTHING. I had to replace nearly everything I did or even thought. Was that so bad? It was a challenge, but oh so worth it. I found an incredibly rich life in sobriety centered in Jesus. It’s like what Paul said:
Philippians 3:7-11 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depend on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.
NOTHING of Paul’s past is more important that Jesus. Paul was not perfect afterwards, but he walked away from everything and didn’t look back. So did I. I’m telling you right now that I still sin, and it kills me. But, I am working hard to find everything of my past that is interfering with my new life. It HAS to go.
What about you? Are you holding on to things of your past? Are you refusing to let them go? Maybe it’s an old friend on Facebook that still likes your posts once in a while. Maybe it’s an old picture or gift from an improper sexual relationship outside of marriage. Maybe it’s a piece of clothing. Maybe it’s a particular drive down memory lane (figuratively AND literally). You may think these things are not harming anyone, but they are. Old life is old life. You are a new creation, the new has come. Right? Sexual sin in particular.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Remember, we commit adultery in our minds even as we do our bodies. Folks, we don’t stone people for sexual sin anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stone the friendships, items, or thoughts of our sinful past. Paul addressed this very well in this passage:
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
I think this about sums it up. We do well when we punish our stray thoughts. Get rid of them. Cut them off from our minds. Is there anything about our sinful past that is worth holding on to? I should think not. We need to do a thorough housecleaning. Not just once, but regularly.
Enough said. This has been weighing so heavily on my mind from several fronts that I just had to hammer on this. I am quite sure I made plenty of people uncomfortable. Some probably will stop reading my posts because of it. I may even lose some friends. But, I tell you, we fool only ourselves by burying our sin. Even if we stop a particular behavior, we are still committing it unless we fully repent. And how can we tell if we have done that? We become vocal about it. We share our story. We warn people. We help those who need help. We ask for forgiveness and make things right as best we can. We become agents of change, hiding nothing of our past. We rid ourselves of EVERYTHING tying us to our past. Are we ashamed? Of course. But through our shame we can change lives. We can prevent little ones from sinning. We can comfort those who have been wounded by sin. In doing so, we WILL set ourselves apart from the other “nation” and become holy.
Some of you may experience some gut-wrenching times ahead of you. My sexual past from my youth really hit me hard three years ago. HARD. I tell you, I regretted my sexual past for a long time including seven years as a believer up until then. But, wow, when the Holy Spirit hit me, he hit me really, really hard. It was a night and day difference in the way I looked at it. I suddenly saw how my actions affected other people, people I had never thought of before. Every woman I slept with outside of marriage, I stole something very, very special. I took a gift that God had intended for her husband. Never mind she was a willing partner. I took something God intended for another man. How awful is that? Can I even appreciate how important this gift was? It makes me sick to think of it. Not only her husband, but I stole something from her children. In no way can they not be affected. I took what was supposed to be shared with their father for myself. Undoubtedly, that harmed them. It HAD to have. And, what about their children? Oh, and how about this? Do I have any children I don’t know about? I could have. They grew up without their real father. How sickening is that? Oh, did any woman feel it necessary to abort her child because I was a thief in the night and was long gone the next day? How about my own kids? Do they bear any scars because I downplayed my sin? Are they making the same rotten choices I did because I legitimized my sin? Have I failed to hammer into them the harm I have caused so many people because of my selfish desires to gratify myself sexually?
This stuff makes me sick. I want nothing to do with my past sin. I cannot have relationships with any old lovers. How could I? We have seen each other’s nakedness, as God puts it. That behavior must be purged from the camp. How can I undo the memories that are seared into my mind? I cannot dull my conscience enough to rid that. I can be forgiven by God, but I am not allowed to keep those relationships – even if I no longer have sex or want to have sex with them.
You may think this all rantings of a mad man. So be it. God is really thrashing me on this and using me as a mouthpiece for others. It’s time now for me to get close to God and seek the comfort only he can give me through forgiveness.
Holy Spirit, please pray for me.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers