How Did I Miss That?
Part 11: There is a Third Way
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
I imagine the excitement building in Jerusalem. The crowds were ready for some gruesome entertainment. A woman had been caught in the act of adultery, and the Law was clear – she should be stoned to death. Stoning was a religious mandate that the crowds could participate in. The pious, religious authorities were there, and the people were ready to begin, stones in hand. There was one problem, however – Jesus. The Pharisees, hoping to trap Jesus into denying the legitimacy of the Law of Moses, asked him whether the woman should be stoned. Jesus bent over and wrote something on the ground. When they continued pressing him, he suggested that anyone without sin throw the first stone. One by one, the people dropped their stones and walked away.
Jesus modeled a third way, a higher truth. The Law was clear, and the Hebrew people believed their salvation was dependent on obedience to that Law. Jesus did not challenge the Law. Instead, he transformed the situation by challenging the justice of one sinner punishing another. It was a brilliant move. It was a third way that did not deny the Law, nor did it condone the woman’s behavior. It forced everyone present to examine his or her own lives and actions. There may not have been other adulterers in the crowd, but there were no sinless purists, either.
We have a tendency to reduce our choices to two options – right or wrong, light or dark, male or female, condone or condemn. There is a significant portion of each day that is neither light nor dark, however, but somewhere in between. The same is true for our lives. There are circumstances that are not clearly right or wrong, depending on the perspective from which they are experienced. When we narrow our choices to two, supporting one and denying the other, we limit the possibilities of our existence and perpetuate an either-or world. Thus, the importance of the third way.
Finding the Third Way is seldom quick or easy, but is always inclusive and respectful of peoples and traditions. The third way may not be any one particular group’s preferred way forward, but it will allow all people to progress. The third way may not achieve perfection, but it will move us closer to a just and righteous society. One of the many shortcomings of our two-solution focus is that we become more vested in defending our position than in solving our problems. We hold a stone, and it needs to be thrown.
Jesus taught that there is a third way. How did I miss that?