Devon Dick: 'He who is without sin ...'
Recently, Reverend Ronald Thwaites, the honourable minister of education, preached at the funeral service for Monsignor Richard Albert, his fellow Roman Catholic. The sermon was passionate and called for compassion in dealing with each other because we have all fallen short of the glory of God.
Indeed it is paradoxical that the Church which preaches forgiveness can be unforgiving when clergy and laity fall into sin. Too often, many Christians forget that the grace of God is given without regard to the worth of the people who receive it. God doesn't give to seemingly 'fit and proper' persons. All who are Christians are saved by the grace or gift of God and nothing about us makes us worthy of this gift. Thwaites' call was timely.
However, there can be a different interpretation and approach to other parts of the sermon. This is not about the call of the preacher for natural justice for the deceased and the reported calling of the name of a bishop which paradoxically would deny the 'called out' one an opportunity to defend himself.
The different approach has to do with an illustration and the passage from John 8: 7 where Jesus said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone..." It is a story about a woman caught in adultery and the prosecutors brought them to Jesus for her execution. The preacher then told a story of a man whose beautiful daughter was killed and at the trial, just before the sentencing he plead for mercy for the criminal. Apparently, he was not interested in the man receiving imprisonment or the death penalty.
It is commendable when a man can forgive the murderer of his daughter. It is good that he has no resentment and bitterness to one who has committed a most heinous crime. Only the great South African Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years behind bars and forgave his oppressors and worked with them afterwards could come close to such a man.
However, it does not mean that every body has to behave in the same manner based on John 8:7. It seems that Jesus is claiming there is no justice for the woman who was caught red-handed. If she were caught in the act in means that there was a male actor and the question is, where is he? Apparently, a woman cannot do what a man does and remain a lady. Jesus could be saying that what is good for the goose should be good for the gander. This was another example of discrimination against women and injustice against the weak.
In addition, it seems that the accusers were self-righteous. Some of them might have been adulterous but were not caught and this was an opportunity to cover their tracks.
'He who is without sin cast the first stone' could not mean that it is only the sinless who can pass judgment on a immoral act. If that were so then there could be no justice system and there could be no prison system. It would be mean that every time there is a rape, murder and destruction of someone's reputation all that could be done is to set the person free because no one can 'cast the first stone'.
Every one should forgive and not have bitterness towards an offender and it is praiseworthy when one can ask for a sentence to be commuted for a murderer of one's child but it is not every one who has to stop the justice system from taking its natural course.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.