John 8:7 – Cast the First Stone

One of the most famous lines in the gospel is “let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”  Jesus is alluding to Deuteronomy 13:9 and 17:7 (cf. Lev 24:14), from which the legal tradition of facing an accuser is based.

This verse is usually taken out of context and directed at judgmental Christians by people who are rather enjoying their sin. There is an presumption that religious leaders are stuffy, puritanical types who are out to punish other people who are committing the same sins they are doing in secret.  In fairness, there is quite a bit of that sort of hypocrisy in the church. Someone like Fred Phelps has done a great deal of harm to the possibility of sharing the love and grace Jesus offers to people.

However, it is impossible for there to be no judgment of right and wrong at all. There are some behaviors which are wrong (adultery is rarely condoned by most cultures, this is more than a sexual taboo!)  Usually sexual ethics are the problem. Few people have a problem called theft or murder a crime, brutality should condemned by everyone. But I am not sure I hear Christians harshly condemning financial fraud or violent crime quite the same way they do sexual sins. Did any Christians make an emotional condemnation of Bernie Madoff?

Save A Soul MissionRather than condemn people who live a lifestyle in contradiction to what we believe biblical Christianity demands, it would be better to find a way to express our belief that the behavior is sinful and that a person can be forgiven without being hateful. Telling someone they are a horrible sinner doomed for hell rarely works, and in most cases it drives people father away from the Gospel.

The saying of Jesus also is a caution for those who condemn others for their behavior. We  do more good by confessing our own limitations and struggles and helping people to recover from destructive lifestyles. Christians who deny they struggle with sin create an inauthentic situation which further alienates those who need the gospel.

Jesus never denies anyone fellowship around the table because they were thieves (tax-collectors) or sinning sexually.

The common use of the phrase “cast the first stone” to silence condemnation of sin ignores the rest of the story. Jesus also tells the woman to “sin no more.”  Jesus does demonstrate forgiveness and grace, but he also makes a clear statement that her behavior must change. Since her sin is self-destructive, to continue in it would be foolish.

15 thoughts on “John 8:7 – Cast the First Stone

  1. In the past I have often struggled with judging the sins of others. I still struggle with it today, but I am becoming more aware of my unnecessary and condemning judgement. As we look to the story in John (not found in earliest manuscripts according to Kostenberger (p. 91)) that discusses the life of the adulterous women (John 8:1-11), we are provided with a prime example of how to interact with and love those who are struggling with sin. Every person struggles with sin, even Christians; sometimes our sin is seen and sometimes it is hidden. When our sin is seen by others, we need what Jesus offered this woman: grace and truth. First, Jesus discourages the judgement and hypocrisy of the Pharisee, then moves on to address the woman personally. Being full of mercy, Jesus shows grace to the adulterous women and does not condemn her, but Jesus continues on to say, “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Jesus showed her grace but also shared the truth about her sin. The common phrase: “cast the first stone” should not be used by anyone but Jesus since he never sinned (1 John 3:5). If we say this phrase to one another, it immediately makes us a hypocrite! Rather than going around and judging others for their sin, we should offer the grace and forgiveness of God while also humbly offering the Truth of God and conveying His desires for our lives without sin.

  2. I once heard someone say, “You won’t see someone come to know the Lord if you argue with them”. I can’t remember if those were the exact words, but the point is, arguing is not the answer if our mission is to lead others to the Lord. Today, our culture does a great job at arguing. Christian culture specifically can also do a great work when it comes to arguing, and as this post says, throwing judgement to others who are living in sin that is so-called “worse” than the sin of the stone thrower. I love how this post also mentions that there is a way to call someone out in their sin, while ALSO telling them that they can be forgiven! Correcting someone in their sin should not be a hateful thing. Instead, it should be a time of love and guidance toward the Lord. I have been on both sides of the line: I have thrown hateful, judgmental stones at others, and I have been hit with the same. From my experiences, I would agree with this post that believers actually benefit more when they confess their own sin and provide help for those who may be walking a similar path. To help others out of their sin is to know Jesus fully. He is the ultimate judge and we are his vessels. Knowing Jesus means praying that our lives would look like Jesus. In doing this, we are further away from being judgy Christians and instead, are Christians who first confess our own sin and then provide help to those who are also stumbling.

  3. Throughout his life, Jesus sets a great example of balancing grace and truth when discussing sin in others’ lives. Jesus demonstrates this especially during his encounter with the woman in John 8. As Long mentions, Jesus shows grace and forgiveness; however, he does not fail to mention that her sin is destructive and she needs to change her ways of living in order to live the best life God has planned for her. Learning to balance grace and truth is something that Christians should strive to achieve in our conversations with others about sin. Living in today’s society, it can be difficult to bring up the subject of sin and tell others that their behavior is self-destructive, because a lot of people (especially in the U.S.) view disagreement or differences as personal hatred towards someone else. While some conversations about this topic can insinuate a hateful attitude, this is not always the case, nor should it be something that we imply. I couldn’t agree more that telling people that they are a horrible sinner and destined to spend eternity in hell will most likely push others away from the truth of Jesus and having a relationship with him. It is important to help others be aware that their sinful behavior is destructive to their lives, but we should not forget to include grace and forgiveness. Judging others is something that is easy to struggle with; however, we should first be self-aware and recognize the sin in our own lives before judging others (Matthew 7:1-5). When we realize that we, too, are sinners, it is easier to extend the same compassion and empathy to others that God provides to us. Ultimately, finding a healthy balance between grace and truth is what will lead others toward desiring a relationship with God, because people will not have a genuine relationship with him just out of fear of spending eternity in hell.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with this post, especially when it comes to sharing Jesus with other people. While this passage is not found in the original manuscripts, according to Kostenberger, it is “just as valuable” to the narrative as the rest of the chapter (p.2039). I think that often this passage is misinterpreted in a way that almost “promotes” living a sinful life, or rathe, teaches people to accept sin, since we are all sinners. I disagree with this way of teaching, because as Long states, “The common use of the phrase “cast the first stone” to silence condemnation of sin ignores the rest of the story. Jesus also tells the woman to “sin no more.” Jesus does demonstrate forgiveness and grace, but he also makes a clear statement that her behavior must change. Since her sin is self-destructive, to continue in it would be foolish” (para 7). To dismiss a sin, because we cannot “cast the first stone” is not the message that Jesus was trying to get across to the people surrounding him. As stated, Jesus tells the woman to “sin no more.” On a similar note, I think that there is two dangerous actions when it comes to sin; condemning and completely accepting a sin– both are hazardous. As Long states, “The saying of Jesus also is a caution for those who condemn others for their behavior” (para 5). The lesson here requires a discerning and understanding heart. If we (christians) are to spread the good news of Jesus, we need to be willing to share our own shortcomings, not condemn someone for their own sins, to show them how Jesus saves those who fall short, which is everybody. What I gather altogether is to be genuine with people about the reality of sin, while also avoiding condemnation, and present the good news that Jesus saves us from our shortcomings and sins. It’s our as Christians job to present the full gospel, which includes the reality of sin and the salvation of Jesus.

  5. This blog actually hit home with events that happened this past year. I met one of my best friends this past year and in the beginning as I was getting to know him, I figured out he was getting drunk on the weekends regularly and was also dating an unbeliever. Knowing he was a Christan and knowing that what he was doing was unbiblical I spent extensive time in prayer on how to best bring up conversations with him and talk about how what he was doing was technically not right in the eyes of the Lord. I spent an extensive amount of time in prayer because my past self would judge immediately, assume, and never give the person the time of day, but that is completely opposite of how Christ loved people. He met them where they were at. So, about a year and a half ago someone I really loved broke my heart and hide things from me that I would have judged them for back in the past, but because they were someone I truly loved, I learned what it meant to truly forgive, to truly give grace, and so when I met my best friend I then got to practice even more on what it looked like to give grace, and because of God working on my heart he was actually working on both of ours at the same time. He no longer gets drunk, and he ended that unhealthy, unbiblical relationship.

  6. When it comes to the sin struggles of modern-day Christian, I would argue that out of all the many sins, the sin of judgment of condemnation may be the one we struggle with the most. We live in this western Christian culture that has distorted the interpretation of scripture and has encouraged this self-serving cherry-picking of verses. Of course, as a life-long Christian, I’ve been guilty of this at some points in my life. And the infamous “purity culture” phenomenon that took the American church by storm at the turn of the 21st century, did not help this scripture reading movement either. Instead of living under law and grace, we’ve shown to have grace for ourselves but to come down hard with the law for everyone else. We’ve been taught to instantly condemn our brothers and sisters in Christ for their sin patterns when seldomly seriously examining our own sin patterns. I love how this blog post says: “it would be better to find a way to express our belief that the behavior is sinful and that a person can be forgiven without being hateful.” (Long, 2012). This sentence here nails it- it’s time for a heart change. We must fully examine Jesus’ heart, intention, and meaning when it comes to John 8:7. I believe we must not project and bring attention to the sins of others, rather we must walk in humility, and be compelled by the Holy Spirit to ultimately share the Gospel, and to share our story, which includes being vulnerable and sharing our sin struggles, to use those past experiences to point the life-changing power of the Gospel.

  7. “let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.” Reading the words of Jesus we should fall to our knees. In our lives “stones” can be many things. One example could be words. In today’s society we do not stone people for their sins but we can publicly shame and make their lives a living hell because of what we say and expose about them. Many of us throw the first stone without even knowing. God is the only one that can truly judge perfectly and we are to not judge or ridicule others for their mistakes. This concept is displayed in Matthew 7:3-5 talking about removing our plank from our eye before our brothers. We ought to make sure we are walking with the Lord before we judge others for their struggles. The blog above makes a great point that we need to focus on “sin no more”. We need to focus on improving our walk with Christ and strive to “sin no more” like Jesus tells the woman. We as Christians need to be more transparent about our struggles and come alongside each other when we are struggling because we are all in it together. We all need the grace of God just as much as the other.

  8. I have a famous saying, and I find myself saying it often to remind me not to judge, even though I find myself doing it without realizing it sometimes. I say that we have all fallen short of the glory of God and we all have sinned. It can be hard at times to try and help someone who is falling short without judging. As Christians we need to love unconditionally and help those without judging. I have witnessed many people help someone and then after it is over talk to the next person and judging that person at the same time. There are some people who can turn people away from the body of Christ. When we judge unbelievers, we aren’t helping them become a believer, but instead helping them turn away. That’s my understanding of this passage about casting the first stone. There is no way we can even think that we are over one person because of the sin that they commit. We are supposed to be loving and most importantly forgiving if the sin act was committed towards you personally. Jesus forgave us for all the sins that we have committed. The only person that can judge is our heavenly father who has never made a mistake or fallen short. We will forever fall short, but whole heartedly we try to be more like Christ. That has been something that has been on my heart, because I have struggled with judging and I realize that saying that we have all fallen short of the glory of God and have all sinned.

  9. I once heard my pastor say a few years ago that “sin is sin.” He further explained that whatever sin is committed will have the same outcome. It doesn’t matter if it is little or big in which sin will always have the same outcome. Whatever we struggle with on a daily/weekly basis when it comes to sin we will always have to re-examine ourselves and ask for forgiveness.

    One aspect that I think many Christians fail in doing. Is that we fail to love one another when we don’t agree with the sin. I think we forget that we cannot change people or their habits, only Jesus can do that. Instead of judging and condemning them, we need to love them. We need to love them even if they are making bad choices.

  10. People, especially Christians struggle with being judgmental towards others because of their actions. For example, someone who does something you don’t agree with you may instantly think they are a bad person and make terrible life decisions. But in reality we shouldn’t judge others because Jesus didn’t judge others. We can not agree with them but we shouldn’t instantly push them away and tell them how bad of a person they are. That won’t help them in their life or help them grow closer to God. When non-Christians see how judgmental christians can be it can make them turn away from God. When someone does something you don’t agree with you don’t have to be rude about it. You can let them know that you don’t agree with what they are doing and still show them that you love and care for them and will help them through whatever they need if they want the help. This shows them that you still see them for who they are, not what they do. And they may be willing to talk with you about their struggles because they know you won’t judge them for it.

  11. I too think that this is a great line in the Gospel of John. This verse is a good reminder because it can be easy to look at other people’s sins without looking at your own. I really like Matthew 7:3 (ESV), which says, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” There are a lot of people who are judgmental and look down upon people who do sinful things. Many of those judgmental people however judge without looking at the sinful things that they are doing. Like the blog talked about, some people see other sins, such as murder, as being worse than others, such as lying. However, they are both sin, which means if one person murders and another person lies, they are still both sinning, regardless of which one has the bigger consequences. I also really like John 8:10-11. We should not be condemning people for their sins. Jesus is the judge, not us. Instead, we should be helping them to stop their sinful tendencies. Condemning will make a lot of people less interested in hearing the Gospel, so we should avoid it.

  12. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” is a phrase that Jesus said that Christians have widely adapted as an anti-judgement anthem. The message being clear that no man alive has not sinned and is guilty of something, there fore they have no right to condemn others. The sin the woman was being accused of was adultery, the crazy thing is that the man she was with was not being punished as well. The idea that a man would only be persecuted if he was engaging in the act with a woman that was betrothed or married to another. The story takes an interesting turn when Jesus does not respond to their accusations the way they wanted him to. If he would have condoned the stoning to death, he would have been saying that the woman’s sin was too bad that she could not be redeemed. If he let her go without punishment, he would be ignoring the laws. However, he makes a point to acknowledge that she has done wrong but encourages her to “go and sin no more”. By showing the encouragement to do good, he is showing he cares about her wellbeing. When you condemn someone in a direct way without compassion you are more likely to push them away permanently. Churches should be weary to not make people feel shame for fear they may never want to return there again.

  13. So many people have shut themselves off from God, the body of Christ, and the Bible because people who claim to be members of the body of Christ have hurt them with judgment. Even though we may not agree with the choices/sins some people have made does not give us the right to treat them with disrespect and make them feel judged. In John 8 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “Let Him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (vs.7). During His sermon on the mount Jesus also says to take care of the plank in your eye before taking the speck out of your brother’s eye. We are not perfect and are not in position to judge others when we are just as sinful as they are. We are called to love other people in the way that God loves us. How are we supposed to live out the great commission when members of the church are hurting people and causing them to turn their backs to Christianity? We can love people and not agree with their lifestyle, and we can minister to people without being judgmental. People are broken and hurting and need to know about God’s love and grace. I’m not saying that we should leave out the need for repentance. What I am saying is that we can show God’s love and grace and explain and make known the need for repentance without casting judgment with harsh words. Jesus shows compassion to the woman in John 8 before He tells her to sin no more. In John 4 Jesus offers the woman at the well living water and makes her sinful lifestyle known. Pure judgment is not the answer and only focusing on God’s love and grace is also not the answer. We need to show people God’s love and grace while also showing them their need for Him to be their savior.

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