Tag Archives: mercy

Stone-Caster or Stone-Catcher?

woman-in-john-8A 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.

Article by Bryan Likins

@bmlesq

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The Promise

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Ps. 23:6

The Shepherd has taken us on quite a journey. We have lain in green pastures, drank from still water, walked righteous paths, and gone through the valley of the shadow of death. He has fed us, bound our wounds, and overfilled our cups. Now He wants to leave us with a promise to hold onto as we continue on our journey.

The first word “Surely” is the Shepherd’s way of telling us that we can count on this… just as surely as we can count on every thing else He has said. For the rest of my life — no matter the pain, sorrow, good times, or bad times — His goodness and His mercy will follow me. Oh, if we could only understand this concept. He is not ever going to leave you in need. He has walked the trail before many times with many sheep. He knows the danger and trials that you will face. He has provided His goodness as a gift to help us as we walk. He knows that we will struggle so He reminds us that He will always be there to provide good things for us.

It is so easy in the midst of a trial to think that God is taking a board and hitting you just for good measure. In our pain, we lash out and think that He no longer cares. Yes, the Shepherd will chastise a disobedient sheep, but He never strikes us for His pleasure. Our Shepherd is good and wants us to know His goodness is always there. We must go through trials and testing to strengthen and grow our faith. We tend to expect a Christian life in a bubble of protection; however, if you take a baby and place him in a bubble with no germs, nothing to learn, and nothing to stimulate him, he will die. As humans we need to get sick to build our immunity. We need to learn how to walk, talk, and live on our own. We need difficulty to stimulate us to persist and try again. The Christian life is no different. Just as we would provide goodness and encouragement to a child who is growing the Shepherd provides us that same goodness.

 Our Shepherd is good and He wants us to know that His goodness is always there!

As if it was not enough to have his goodness, He also provides His mercy. The Shepherd knows that we will fail Him. We were born falling short of His Glory, and salvation does not change the fact that we will fall short. Knowing this, the Shepherd has provided His mercy; not as a license to sin, but as a way to continue the journey. If not for His mercy He would strike us down on our first offense. We live our life each day in His mercy and with that mercy comes responsibility. We must rise after we have fallen. (Proverbs 24:16) “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” His mercy demands that we get up and go on. Satan will use your falling and tempt you to remain down. The Shepherd never intended you to fall and not get up. If He did, He would never have given His mercy.

Some may ask: “Can I run out of this mercy?” According to the verse, not until He takes you home. I do believe that some sheep go home early, but as long as He gives you breath you have His mercy. In my opinion, for what it is worth, I think that many Christians who quit do so over guilt of their sin. Satan uses past failures as burdens to hold us down, but His mercy allows us to stand again.

To close it all off and finish this journey the Shepherd has taken us on, He has one more thing to say. “and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” After the journey is complete and when the path has ended – Heaven awaits. The pain of today leads to the joy of tomorrow. The trials made us able to reach more people for Christ. Our faith in the Shepherd was built to its ultimate purpose: He awaits us with nail scared hands. No longer stretched out for our sin, but now stretched our to welcome us home.

I leave Psalms 23 with some words that Paul gave those Christians at Ephesus … and having done all, to stand. Stand…
(Ephesians 6:13,14)

Article by David Wagner

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