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Why Is That Stone in Your Hand?

Why Is That Stone in Your Hand?

I love that it is the unorthodox who are almost always the heroes in the stories of Jesus.  Take, for example, the sinful woman who—in a most unorthodox manner—washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair in the house of the “righteous” and observant Pharisee.  Jesus was disgusted with the Pharisee’s self-righteous judgment and condemnation:

“Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.  Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’”  (Luke 7:44-47.)

This Pharisee, who by all accounts was an active church goer, was so spiritually dead that he couldn’t even be a good host.  His pious life of having “been forgiven little” left him out of touch, unable to identify basic human needs.  In contrast, the woman’s display of compassion, understanding and love—meeting the basic human needs of Jesus—showed that despite her sinful life (or perhaps because of it) she was a transformed human being who really “got it.”

Perhaps the crisis of apostasy and disbelief we perceive in the world today is a direct outgrowth of the greater apostasy, the secret revolt that is being perpetuated in the hearts of the orthodox who have forgotten how to love and, indeed, seem to love their theology and conformity more than they love people.

This story speaks discourses on the culturally converted—those who don’t “get it” (but are blinded into thinking that they do).  Ironically, in this and most of the other stories of Jesus, it is the so-called “active” and “faithful” who most often unlovingly judge and hypocritically brand the unorthodox as if struggling with orthodoxy was really more sinful than the uncompassionate and dogmatic enforcement of it.

Do you really think the message of Jesus is that what you believe—your theology, your rule-keeping, your conformity—matters more than the kind of person that you are?  Do you really think that your strict orthodoxy or faithful belief in a set of dogmas or tenets makes you righteous?  If so, you really don’t understand the scriptures at all.

Remember, whenever you point your finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you.

When Jesus confronted the would-be stone throwers who were ready to condemn the woman caught in the very act of adultery (John 8:2-11) what do you think troubled him more?  The woman’s sin or the fact that the would-be stone throwers’ orthodoxy had led them to a spirit of murder?  Jesus had to know that this same spirit would eventually lead to his murder.

“What is that stone in your hand and what does it say about your heart?”

What spirit is inside of you?

Perhaps the crisis of apostasy and disbelief we perceive in the world today is a direct outgrowth of the greater apostasy, the secret revolt that is being perpetuated in the hearts of the orthodox who have forgotten how to love and, indeed, seem to love their theology and conformity more than they love people.

Grounding yourself in orthodoxy is as silly as sitting on the sideline, studying your rule book and thinking that it will make you a football star.  Yes, knowing the rules is important.  But that is not the essence of the game.  It is barely even the beginning!  It’s the hours in the gym, lifting and struggling.  It’s the hours on the practice field, running, hitting, getting knocked down, and then getting back up again.  It’s a thousand tears, a million drops of sweat, blood and sacrifice. That’s what football stars are made of.

Judging reveals more about you than the person you are judging

Likewise, studying the scriptures, keeping all the rules and being fully orthodox might make you a spiritual Bob Costas; knowledgeable but wholly inadequate and incapable of playing the real game on the field of life.  Those things are necessary but wholly insufficient.  Orthodoxy without orthopraxy is a dangerous thing.  It renders you weak when you think you are strong.  It’s an illusion, a golden calf, a graven image.  It swells your head and shrinks your heart.

So I would ask you who are so ready to judge, so ready to condemn, so sure that you’re right, so confident that you are among the “righteous,” so worried about what other people believe, so worried about what others are doing and how they are living, “What is that stone in your hand and what does it say about your heart?”

Remember, whenever you point your finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you.  As the stories of Jesus teach us, judging reveals more about you than the person you are judging.

The next time you are ready to judge or condemn someone, especially for what they do or don’t believe, ask yourself, “Would I be the hero or the villain if this were a story of Jesus?”

Love Wins

Love Wins

While I don’t think God really cared whether Clemson or Alabama won the NCAA national championship football game–he has bigger things to worry about–I do think Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney has learned a powerful secret to success that drove his team to a national title.  Love.  In the emotional moments immediately after the conclusion of Clemson’s exciting, last-second 35-31 victory over undefeated Alabama on Monday, Coach Swinney said,  “I told [my team] tonight, I told them that the difference in the game was going to be love. It’s been my word. My word all year’s been love.  And I said, ‘Tonight we’re going to win it because we love each other.'”

Is it really possible that love for one another compelled each of the Clemson players to perform at a higher level?  I think it is.  In my book, Built to Love, I wrote, “the only commodities humans need are each other and love. Love can grow and harvest better crops, write and paint more enduring masterpieces, better heal the blind and broken, build better businesses, bridges, buildings and everything else we need. We have the knowledge….  [B]ut [u]ntil we choose to love we won’t truly live….When humans value each other as much as God values humans then humans will be divine indeed.  The world will be divine indeed.

Can you imagine the world we could build if our hearts were built to love?  Can you imagine all of the attorneys that would be out of work?  Can you imagine how well we would make our cars, our homes, our clothes and everything else?  Instead of trying to make everything for as little money as possible and then selling it for as much money as possible, we would forget about profiting and just try to make things as good as we could possibly make them.  Can you imagine the world we could build if our hearts were built to love?  People could pursue their true talents if they didn’t have to worry so much about money and making a living.  The music would be better.  The food would be better.  The movies would be better.  Everything would be better in a world built to love.”

Instead of economies driven by selfishness and greed they would be driven by love.  Perhaps you think this is naive and unrealistic.  But, using a football team as a metaphor for life, what happens to a team that’s not really a team?  What happens to a team that is plagued with internal conflict, relationship problems, too many egos fighting for attention, individuals looking out for themselves and trying to make themselves look better than their teammates?  What happens to a team that has ball hogs, glory hogs and prima donnas?   Do those teams have success?  What is happening in the world today?  Are we playing as a team or are we each looking out for ourselves?  What would happen if we “played as a team” and truly tried to help each other be our best and achieve the best?  What if each of us could pursue what we were truly excellent at instead of simply pursuing a living?  Can you imagine that kind of world?

I, for one, am glad that Dabo Swinney had the courage to speak out and to speak from the heart.  I am convinced that the continuity, brotherhood and teamwork that existed on the Clemson football team propelled it to the national title.  I am also convinced that Dabo Swinney’s words are a metaphor for life, in general.  Love wins.  If you don’t believe me, try it.  Start by trying to build a family “team” that loves each other, respects each other and helps each other.  Focus on that for a while and see if the quality of your life improves.  I assure you it will.  Of course, you must begin with yourself.  You can’t change others.  But you can change you.  You change the way you choose to feel about others.  You can choose love.

Congratulions, Clemson Tigers and Dabo Swinney!  Not for the national championshiop, but for choosing love.

Click here to watch Dabo Swinney’s emotional interview: