One of the goals I have for Cerulean Sanctum is to carve out a godly middle ground on the issues that face the American Church while at the same time never backing down from what needs to be said. Despite the fact that I work hard to find a more godly response to those issues, I’ve had a few people label me an angry young man.
We Americans have always held the angry young man in esteem, especially when that angry young man dispenses his brand of angry young man justice on despicable villains. On the other hand, there’s something about being an angry old man that unnerves us. We have an equation worked out in our heads that looks something like this:
Young + Angry = Hero
Old + Angry = Crank
Watch this play out in public and you soon learn that you’re given a pass till about age 35, then you start sliding into crankhood. That age didn’t escape the notice of the founders of this country, either. No one can occupy the highest office in the land until 35.
I believe the founders understood a deep truth that plays out in the eighth chapter of John:
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
My revelation in understanding this passage came when I understood the second half of this snippet:
…they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones…
To me, that’s one of the greatest strings of 11 words ever committed to print.
Do we understand the profundity of John’s Spirit-inspired words here?
When you’re an angry young man, your blood boils at the thought of a good stoning. Finding the perfect rock, heavy, jagged even. You feel the adrenaline enliven your muscles, engorging them with blood. The smell of sweat. Loud roars from angry men shouting for justice. The adultress’s vile perfume stinging your nose. The thought that you can get in the first throw. Wham! A head shot! That perfect throw that smashes her skull and caves in her head. Your throw. Your death strike against sin.
Can you see it? Can you taste how bad you want it to play out in life as it does in your mind’s eye?
But when you’re an older man, it should be different.
You look around and see an old friend standing off to the side, his grip on his stone not so tight. The light had been dim, but you thought you saw him come out of her place a month ago, though you told yourself otherwise. He casts a downturned glance your way because you know, and he knows, too. And what of your own struggles? Who knows about your private sin, your little dalliance from years ago, and how you thanked God every day that you weren’t found out? Though in the end, who can hide anything from God? It should be you in that circle with that woman, shouldn’t it? In fact, it could be every man standing around that woman, stone in hand. All of you, ready to have your teeth shattered, your bones broken. Every last one of you. Buried under a pile of well-deserved stones. Because you had it coming as much as that woman before you now.
One of the greatest self-deceptions the devil throws at us is that our sin is somehow not as bad as their sin, no matter who “they” might be. I wonder how many of us who should know better still cling to that angry young man we should’ve put to death a long, long time ago as part of our maturity in Christ. As much as we talk about grace, too few of us actually dispense it. There is nothing sadder under the sun than an old man, stone still in hand, ready to throw it at whomever he classifies as deserving of it’s granite sting.
It amazes and saddens me that so many Christians out there who should know better can’t drop their stone. They’ve got to hurl it at all cost. And they do so because they have no concept of grace or of their own sin. They live an unexamined life that focuses on everyone else’s failures and none of their own.
Tim Keller and David Powlison wrote eloquently on one way in which we can learn to drop the stone. I would encourage everyone to read it here, bloggers especially.
The old adage goes “There’s no fool like an old fool.” God help us if Christian maturity doesn’t lead us beyond the angry young man stage and into the wisdom of dropping our stones.