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They broke into the room in a furor. Caught in the act! All their suspicions confirmed, and the truth, right there in my arms.

Before I knew what was happening, they grabbed me, one by the hair, and two others took my arms. My feet stumbled to keep up with their pace but soon I was just so much luggage, pulled along behind them. Out the bedroom door, down the stairs, each step down sending pain up through my legs. All my kicking and struggling just added to my agony.

At first I was screaming for help, then I realized who my attackers were. This angry mob that broke into my home and dragged me out into the dusty road, was made up of those who were supposed to protect me, the ones I was supposed to call when I was in trouble. One wore a police uniform, two had the backward collars of the clergy. I recognized store owners and local businessmen. Even the mayor was there. I thought I recognized the pastors from three local churches.

Amid the shuffle, I heard someone ask, “What do we do now? Where to?”

The forward motion stopped and then they let me drop to the ground, face in the dirt. A foot pressed into my upper back holding me to the ground.

Then I heard a voice I knew. “Our law calls for stoning.” It was my rabbi. This man witnessed when my parents named me. He taught me the Torah as I came of age. He officiated at my wedding.

There was general agreement.

But then a voice I didn’t know called out, “Let’s take him to the teacher who just arrived in town. Let’s see what He'll do.”

Everyone seemed to love this idea, so they took up my arms again. Again my feet tried to gain purchase, but someone tripped me so I couldn’t get my balance. The short walk through town seemed to take hours to me. My mind was racing. My emotions skittered from fear to rage to shame and back again.

What would this man do with me?

When they found Him in the dusty square, they dropped me at His feet. As I looked at His dust-covered sandals, the stories of this man—Jesus—came to me. He’d been teaching in the square, and healing the sick. He healed dozens of men and women in the two days he’d been in town. Lame men were walking. The blind woman I see in the market every day could see. But I knew He was a Jew, like me, and they called Him a rabbi.

By now all my accusers had rocks in their hands, and some of them called out hurtful names.

My rabbi now addressed this outsider.

“This filth was caught in the very act, in the arms of a man. Our law says this abomination should be publicly stoned to drive this evil out of our land.”

Then he left me there in the dirt and backed away, stone at the ready. As he backed away he finished with “What do you say, what should we do?”

A cry went up from the angry pack, “Stone him” and then the vile epithets came in a wave, “Homo. Queer. Faggot. Queen.”

At the sound of these words, my tears began to flow into the dust inches from my face. The bile was rising into my mouth as everything I held dear slipped through my fingers. My life was over, and I felt I had hardly lived. Twenty eight short years ended by these hands of hate.

Part of me wanted to agree with this mob, and part of me hated them right back. Somewhere inside me was a voice screaming with the crowd that I deserved this scorn, a voice that called along with them, “Your broken.” How could it all end like this? If I could, I would go back and make it right. I didn’t want to hurt my wife this way. I didn’t want my kids to be fatherless. I didn’t want to die with this sin, this betrayal, this ugliness, the only legacy I left behind.

Then this rabbi they called Jesus, bent down. I turned my head toward Him to see what He was doing. It looked like He was drawing in the dust. I wiped the tears from my eyes so I could see what He was doing. He was writing. With my face so close to the ground, I couldn’t make anything of the words.

He stopped writing, still crouched down near me, and looked up at the army of hate surrounding us. He raised His hand to quiet them and said,

“The one of you who has no sin should throw the first stone.”

All the shouting turned to a murmurs, and soon silence.

I raised myself up enough to see what He was writing.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not bow down to idols.
You shall not take the name of the Lord lightly.
Keep the sabbath.
Honor your father and mother.”

My heart told me I had broken each of these, and many others too. Now my tears came in torrents. I was sobbing.

The Rabbi didn’t finish. He didn’t have to. Through my tears I was astonished to see we were alone in the street. The mob was gone, and the street was littered with stones. They just let their hate fall in the dust and moved away.

Then Jesus crouched down; He put His hand under my chin, and raised my eyes to meet His. Our eyes met.

He took the sleeve of His well-worn robes, and wiped the tears from my eyes.

“Son, where are your accusers?”

With my voice shaking, I said, “There’s no one left,” then cautiously, “except You.”

“Then, I don’t accuse you either. I want you to go and turn your life around, no more life of sin.”

He helped me up to my feet.

I hurt all over, bruised and battered from head to toe, but something deep inside was fixed, healed. The brokenness I felt minutes ago was gone. The confusion I lived with since the day of my bar mitzvah left with the mob. There was something rising up in me. Free? Forgiven? Clean?

I went home. I asked my wife to forgive me. Tears flowed again, from both of us. I sat with my children and repented before them. My humility before them broke the shame they carried because of me.

I can’t say meeting Jesus has made my life easier, but He gave me a path to walk, and gave me a desire to walk it. For the first time I can remember, I’m free from shame and regret. I’m free from the confusion. I’m free to be the man God created me to be.

I’m free!

===

Does this picture challenge your heart as much as it does mine?

Let me know how your heart reacts.

benheadshot1See you again soon.

Walk like Jesus.

Ben

That is honestly what I thought when I got to this part of Matthew 5. I am trying to work my way through the sermon on the mount, and teach it from my heart. And now this!

And it was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’, but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matt 5:31-32 NASB)

I know from George Barna’s article New Marriage and Divorce Statistics Released 30% of American Adults who have been married, one third have been divorced at least once.

I know from this same study that fully 26% of Evangelical Christians have been divorced at least once.

I know the Church has done more harm that good for decades, in the lives of those who have been impacted by divorce.

I also know that I am unwilling to mitigate the words of Jesus just because they are uncomfortable.

So I have been agonizing over this post for over a week, asking the Lord for light that would be true to the word, and edifying to the body of Christ.

OK- here goes:

The phrase that really strikes me here (at least today) is “everyone who divorces his wife,  makes her commit adultery.” How can an action take by a man (ejecting his wife) put guilt on her?

He is speaking into a society that is very male centric, and in fact demeans women at every turn. A woman as I understand it, would not work outside the home. She would be a daughter until she became a wife. This may be an oversimplification, but in essence once married, she would carry out the household duties prescribed to her.

The only legit grounds for divorce that made sense here would be unchastity – so if a man were to divorce his wife, it is like sewing that big read “A” right on her blouse, even if it was not true. The chatter would be, “What did she do to deserve this? She must be…”

So my thinking here is that what she receives is SHAME without GUILT. The two may feel the same, and often go hand in hand. But in this case – the guilt is not her's but his, and the shame is undeserved, but as real as if she was the one Jesus rescued from the center of the square in John 8. [Tweet This]

Now – speaking of John 8, just for the record, Jesus makes it clear that this is not the unforgivable sin.

So here is the deal. If you (man or woman) act in any relationship in such a way as to imply shame upon others, STOP IT NOW! (really – I mean it!)

If you (woman or man) are carrying shame because of something someone else did, take a deep breath and hear the words of Jesus. “Where are your accusers? Go and sin no more."

Let me just say a couple more things here about divorce. May I? (if you answered no here – you should stop reading and just go to the bottom and click “like” – otherwise read on)

First – hear this – divorce is not the unforgivable sin. (Yes - it bears repeating) If you have been through a divorce, don’t let that become your identity. Repent if necessary, reconcile to whatever level it is possible, and be free of that stigma. God forgives us for our sins when we confess and forsake them. And the Word tells us that he cleanses us from all unrighteousness. That means it is as though you never sinned.

Next - If you are in a marriage, and it is rough, I would say to you, God has the power to heal all those wounds. The ones you have inflicted, and the ones you have borne. Fast and pray and seek the face of God. There is nothing more beneficial to a relationship with another human, than a relationship with God. Work at your marriage. Talk to your spouse. Be honest. Get a good Christian counselor involved.

Finally - Remember this about marriage. God loved us, and reconciled himself to us in that He did not hold our trespasses against us. If we can step into giving that same kind of love to our spouses, we can make this work. The only love that works is agape love, and agape love is always a choice, not a feeling. We must choose to love our mates.

Thanks for reading today. I really appreciate that you take the time.

Ben

Ring photo credit: ZeRo`SKiLL via photopin cc

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