A recent edition of Smithsonian Magazine focused on a handful of individuals who had won the magazine’s American Ingenuity Awards. It highlighted one person who made an outstanding contribution to science, cinema, teaching, and social justice. As an attorney, I was drawn immediately to an article about Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson is a Harvard-educated attorney who has devoted his career to representing minors who face the death penalty. (To set you at ease, this post isn’t about the constitutionality of putting minors to death.)
There were discussions about his religious upbringing, attending a Christian college, and what had drawn him into defending accused minors. Towards the end of the article, he indicated the reason for his chosen career path; he said, “There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher.” He spoke about Jesus’ actions in “defending” the woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery in John 8. Christ’s willingness to protect this stranger – who everyone present knew was an adulterer and worthy of death under the law – seemed to be his inspiration! While he did not say so explicitly, it seemed he was just trying to stand between those who were undoubtedly “guilty” of some wrong but who faced a world ready to levy the harshest penalty allowable under the law. He called himself “a stone catcher.”
“There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher.”
I was immediately convicted. While I would readily admit that mercy-and-truth and mercy-and-judgment must be balanced, I thought of times when I, like the scribes and Pharisees in John 8, was ready to pronounce swift and harsh punishment because it was “deserved.” I thought to myself, “How many times have I been the stone caster rather than the stone catcher?”
Stone catchers must get in the way.
When someone has damaged their reputation or fallen into sin, the easiest thing to do is – well – nothing! But Galatians 6:1 commands something very different. It states: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Frankly, I don’t know if there is a verse in the Bible that is less practiced in today’s Christian world. But God has been clear. If you are “spiritual,” it is your duty to get involved in restoration of the fallen – to become a stone catcher.
Stone catchers might get hurt.
If you get truly involved in protecting or restoring those who need it most, you might get hit yourself by those throwing stones. That is, despite your innocence, you may become a target based on nothing more than your affiliation. This can hurt. However, there is another, more hurtful possibility. The person you intervene on behalf of – the one in whom you invest time, effort, and love – may let you down by rejecting your offer or reverting to their old ways. Both are likely reasons why some are afraid to become stone catchers, but neither is a legitimate excuse for not get involved in the stone catching ministry.
Stone catchers many times get heckled.
If you make the decision to become a stone catcher, I can guarantee you that you will not be the most popular person with certain people – including some “religious” ones. Questions, jokes, or insults might come if you take up stone catching. Sadly, most prefer to talk to others about someone’s problems rather than talking with the person about their problems. But what did Christ do with the woman caught in adultery? He encouraged, and He restored. When Christ extended mercy instead of harsh judgment, the scribes and Pharisees were not happy! And if you review the chapters that follow (including John 9 and 11), you will see that the Pharisees began levying attacks with new fervor following this incident. This also should not deter us.
Commit this year to mentoring a struggling teenager and taking him out to lunch, or to sending a note of encouragement to and regularly praying for someone who is rumored to have gotten upset about something at church, or, most importantly, to practicing mercy like Jesus did. Give up your stone casting and take up stone catching.