Skip to content

Don’t Throw the Second Stone

Violence by Alejandro Obregón.

Compared to other animals, humans have comparably few instincts. Maybe the strongest ones are to scapegoat and to imitate. Scapegoating, often based on fear and resentment, builds then fixates into a one-dimensional story that blames current problems on others. With the human tendency to imitate, scapegoating will grow to have an oversized impact. Jesus Christ received the brunt of these instincts when people around him developed a narrative, based on perceived slights and offenses, that eventually led crowds to say he must die.  

In ancient times, stoning was structured to be a communal response in which no one person would be held responsible for the murder. Jesus slowed the process when He said that the first stone is to be thrown by one without sin. But what about throwing the second stone? When the religious elite keep people in a state of fear, they are dabbling with an evil strategy.  Cultivating fears within a group will bring unintended consequences, sometimes leading to violence which was never intended by the leaders.   

All four gospels subvert scapegoating with a focus on a theme of Jesus’s fearless table fellowship.  Jesus’s customs at the table and choice of companions always gave offense, but we learn that grace brings good news of unimagined possibility. Jesus began to dismantle mimetic violence simply by living His core identity as a healer.  With courage, he visited the sick. Through the lens of Jesus’s life, the Bible shows the nature of God and the true nature of humanity and its instincts. When Romans 12 tells us not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed with a renewed mind, was the true intent to invite us to join Him in dismantling human’s instincts and join him in healing?  

How then shall we live? First, we must wake up. Too often, religion has numbed people to be unconscious pawns, unaware of societal pulls and oblivious to coercion in the name of religion, but God respects us too much for that. In Matthew 26, the disciples are twice told: “Stay awake.”   

In an epidemic of loneliness, amidst an ethos of information overload, the need for collective belonging makes it easy to be swept into a current. The deep need to belong can affect how one distills and curates facts. How do we know whether we are joining a group that is part of the Jesus team? Maybe one way is to remember that the satanic voice always comes with accusation, while the voice of the Holy Spirit is characterized by advocacy.  

Lean into the project of living above power struggles of partisan wrangling and doctrinal posturing and rise beyond the clattering fringe voices that are now pervasive online. Acknowledge the futility of group identity based on fear and what one is against.  Search for a group identity based on the surety of God’s faithfulness as described in John 10.

This means looking away from the swirling vortex of victimhood and persecution that threatens to collapse into collective violence. Now is the moment to stand on a platform of healing and collaboration with a commitment to be the voice of the vulnerable and the marginalized.  Jesus challenged the domain of human power and was crushed. But then, he arose to be  Lord of all and instigate the greatest influence on human hearts of all time—that of peace and courage.

This editorial appears in the new, special double issue of our print journal, volume 51, issues 3-4.

Image: “Violence” by Alejandro Obregón.

About the author

Carmen Lau has chaired the Adventist Forum board since 2018. She earned an MA in Anthropology of Peace and Human Rights at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has a BS in Nursing from Southern Adventist University and an MS in Nursing from Loma Linda University. She is a member of the Birmingham First Seventh-day Adventist Church. More from Carmen Lau.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Spectrum Newsletter: The latest Adventist news at your fingertips.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.