Kenneth L. Samuel
"If any of you is without sin, let them be the first to throw a stone at her. Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the elder ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there." - John 8:7-9
So many of our hopes and dreams for the future are fastened upon the young. We look to youth and young ideas to lead us out of the quagmires of jaded routines and parochial paradigms. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's was largely advanced by young people who risked high school diplomas, college degrees and parental approval to march with Dr. King and to launch the sit-ins and Freedom Rides.
Today we look to young minds with fresh ideas to help us tackle a wide range of challenges – from global warming to the legal status of cannabis to marriage equality. Many of our brightest and best ideas emanate from young persons who are not so invested and entangled in the status quo that they cannot explore the full possibilities of progressive change.
But progress does not always require young minds and fresh ideas. In fact, sometimes young people are even more ideologically inflexible and even more certain of the course to take than older people. Sometimes real change requires the assessment of someone mature enough to attest to the futility of everyone's absolute certainty, including his or her own.
In the crowd of religious people who picked up stones to kill a woman who had been caught in adultery, there were those who were certain that their action was justified. Jesus added one stipulation before the first stone was thrown: "If you find yourself sinless, be the first executioner."
It then took the older ones in the group to lead the way to a new embrace of the ancient virtues of mercy and grace. Only those who had been around long enough could see how a judgmental mindset destroys both those who are accused and those who stand in judgment. So the oldest were the first to drop their stones and walk away.
Sometimes children lead the way. And sometimes children must look to the mature ones to be mature.
Dear God, as we advance in age, give us the maturity to look beyond our absolutes, the wisdom to bring new meaning to old virtues, and the life-renewing experience of your everlasting grace. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.