But What Sayest Thou?
It is written,
“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”
This verse presents the question of what to do when we are confronted with what clearly looks to be sin according to the scriptures. In this example there is little doubt that the woman brought before Jesus was guilty of the sin of adultery. The Pharisees said to Jesus that according to Moses she should be stoned to death and wanted to know His opinion on the matter.
Legally the Pharisees were right according to the Laws of Moses. Since the law was given by God they felt that Jesus would have no choice but to condemn her also. This was not a sincere question because the religious leaders sought to temp the Son of God to go against the scripture. They knew Jesus preached forgiveness of sins and thought to brand Him as ungodly if He forgave this woman contrary to the law. Yet, God manifest in the flesh said to the woman after all her accusers had left ashamed “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
What I wish to point out today is that we should always consider the human being before we condemn them.
Here is a truth,
“Throwing stones costs us nothing while potentially costing those we cast them at everything.”
Take for example the question about polygamy in Africa. I use this example simply because it is a “hot button issue” for many believers who condemn such practices without thought or consideration of the human consequences.
When a Christian believer is confronted with this type of marriage arrangement many times they automatically denounce it as sin. The words that fall from their lips are often unkind or condescending at best. They confidently believe that they have the “right” according to scripture to treat the man so married with utter contempt while regarding the women joined to him with self-righteous pity. Like the Pharisees of the first century they feel justified to condemn these people along with their sin.
Yet, those who so readily condemn these people rarely stop to consider what effect their words have upon those they are directed towards. If the people who are practicing this life style took what they said literally they would put away all but their first wives including whatever children fathered from those “ungodly marriages.” Thus conforming to others idea of righteousness they would cause all but the first wives kids to become illegitimate. This, in fact, was mandated by the first missionaries in Africa and is a terrible black mark on our evangelistic efforts there to this very day.
How would you feel as a young child who loved his father and mother if you were told that Jesus said your parents were sinful? What would you think if the missionaries told you that God was loving yet your farther must leave your mother in order to be a good Christian? What about the second or third wife that must now have no husband because of your doctrine? What about the man who loves all his wives and has to choose between them in order to obtain salvation? Do you have so little compassion that you can look such a man in the eye and say that God demands this from him? Would you destroy his family in order for your doctrine to prevail? If Christ spared the woman caught in adultery how can you sit in judgment on such a matter especially realizing that many of the greatest men of God you admire had similar types of families? If you can say yes in your heart to any of these questions then you are legalistic.
To say that God does not accept polygamy as a valid form of marriage costs you nothing but for those whom you demand follow your doctrine it costs them everything. Is our doctrine more important than the human beings you are ministering too? Man was not made for doctrine but rather doctrine was for man. When our beliefs damage those we seek to save we must examine ourselves to see whether or not we truly speak in love and have the heart of God in the matter. Hard sayings were present in many of Emanuel’s teachings yet the common people heard Him gladly. Can it be said the same of you?
Moreover, those who so easily cast stones are not more righteous than those they condemn. If the secret sins of the accusers were written, as it were, on the ground before them they would quickly drop their stones and leave in shame.
Here is a truth,
Legalism is law without mercy
In the Middle Ages during the inquisition people were actually tortured if they would not repent of what the religious leaders thought was heresy. It was considered best to kill the body rather than let their soul go to hell. Thus, they thought, the greater good was served by tortures too terrible to imagine. Read foxes “Book of Martyrs” to learn some of the methods used to encourage this primitive form of normative Christianity.
This same pitiless spirit of legalism still exists in the church today but thankfully it has been moderated by secular laws which prevent such abuses to basic human rights. Today, we still do terrible things to people spiritually by condemning and shunning those we feel do not meet our standards of righteousness and doctrinal purity. The same spirit that could watch a fellow human being burnt to death for the gospels sake is the same spirit that can also watch families be destroyed because they do not fit the western ideal of monogamy. This is the same type of spirit that caused religious Jews to cry “Crucify Him!”
The purpose of this essay is not to defend or condemn the practice of polygamy but rather to point out that believers should not be quick to condemn others when it costs them nothing to do so. We must not seek to cast stones for one day we will ask for mercy and understanding from someone even greater.
In conclusion, what sayest thou? Do you condemn those whom you do not understand or do you give them grace even though they do what you consider to be sin? Truly loving a sinner does not mean you put on spiritual gloves to handle them but rather that you stretch forth your hands to touch that which you consider leprous.
Suggested book “Polygamy Reconsidered” Eugene Hillman