I hear it all the time in some form or another – especially when talking with the Lost – when a discussion of homosexuality crops up (or any other sinful act that might be under discussion): “Judge not lest ye be judged by the same measure” or, as in the title of this post, “He who is without sin shall cast the first stone.” Its good to know that people have been paying attention, but I find it extremely distressing to hear both used without any care for the context that the whole passages that those verses are lifted from. I’ll get back to that in a minute, I first – and mainly – want to focus on whether or not those rebukes are even valid.
In the case of the rebuke in the title about casting the first stone and being without sin – which would be the most valid if used properly – people forget how that situation ended and that is with Christ not just forgiving the adultress/prostitute, but telling her to go and sin no more (John 8:1-11). He did indeed make those present – those who were condemning her – think about how they themselves were sinners as well. With nothing more then some simple words He stopped a stoning and caused others to rethink what they were doing. At that point Christ would have been well within His right – being without sin – to perform the stoning. He didn’t, though. He did something even greater: with compassion and love He let her go with the charge to “sin no more.”
How does that play out in the discussions Believers have today about topics such as homosexuality? For starters, regardless of the sin being discussed we must first realize that as Believers, we should recognize that many of us still lead lives in which – either unknowingly or knowingly – we still sin. The difference between us and the Lost is that we acknowledge this and turn from the sin in repentance. Knowing – and doing – this, when we discuss the sins of others we really need to do so in compassion and love with the intention of showing them that they can overcome their sinful ways, or more correctly, Christ will do so for them if only they trust in Him. In this manner, the rebuke is absolutely invalid, otherwise – such as with the misguided efforts of the congregation led by Fred Phelps, it would indeed be valid.
This of course brings me to another often used rebuke, that of not judging. In Matthew 7:1-6 Christ is teaching about judgment and discernment of sin both in others and ourselves. While only the first two verses are the (mis-)used ones, prayerful interpretation of the entire passage is needed to understand it. Christ’s warning against judgment in verses 1-2 is explained in verses 3-5. One cannot truly discern correctly someone else’s sin if they cannot make out the sin in their own lives (the mote and beam Christ used in that teaching are representative of sin). Hence the charge of hypocrite to the person who is judging without seeing how out of order their own life is. The last verse is a warning against trying to get someone to listen who just doesn’t care. Valid rebuke? Never, I believe, because no one except God and the person on the “judgmental” side know the condition of that person’s life. Also, it is invalid because the rebuke implies that Christians should never call sin what it is: sin.
On the topic of homosexuality (used again here because it is mainly is discussions about it that such rebukes are thrown around), God has not only called it sin, but an abomination (Leviticus 18:22). In the New Testament God says – through the Apostle Paul – that homosexuals (those who practice a lifestyle of such) will not be in heaven with Him, with Romans 1:26-27 being utterly clear in the matter. Does that make the Christian judgmental when calling such behavior sinful? No, because God Himself already judged it as such and we are just standing in agreement with Him when we restate the fact.
God Is Love
Another rebuke – generally in defense of homosexuality but also, less frequently, with bigamy – is that “God is love.” This one is thrown around especially by those who are trying to defend their sinful lifestyle. This one can be hard to rebuke because Scripture is clear that God is indeed love, but He is also Wrathful, Jealous, Pure, Righteous, Holy, and Just. While His love knows n o bounds, His perfect justice does. First of all, He established such love to be between one man and one woman. The old(ish) adage of “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” is perfectly true. Just as the animals were created both male and female, so were we who – being above all creation – were created in His image. In the perfect world that momentarily existed, not even the animals had such base relations with each other.
The difference between us and the animals is that they are not moral creatures. They do not have eternal souls that go anywhere when they die. They don’t have to answer for their actions as they are not held accountable for that which they don’t comprehend. On the other hand, being made in the likeness of God Himself, we are indeed held accountable because we are free moral agents. We have a soul and spirit which will – when we die – face eternal judgment. We will be held accountable because we were made like God, Himself a free moral agent, and it is His standard to which we will be held.
Going further, God instituted marriage based on His standard: man and woman. Read Genesis 2 if you doubt me. God is indeed love, but He does not condone “love” outside of His standard (which is unchanging). This topic also goes along with the topic of sexual purity (for which He also set the standard) both outside and inside of marriage.
There are most likely more, but those are the three most common I’ve heard (and have had thrown at me) and therefore the ones I’ve spent time in prayer and study over. Has my heart or sight or understanding of Scripture always been good or right? No, but the more time I’ve spent seeking after God, the more my understanding has grown. With that, I encourage you all to also truly seek after God – not man – spending time in His Word and asking for His understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Those who seek shall receive; those who ask will have it given; those who knock will have that door opened (Matthew 7:7, paraphrased).