It is one of the world’s most popular sports – but you will never find it in the Olympics! It is very popular among politicians and the press – but the church have some of the best players in the world.
The game is quite complex because there are really no rules. But one of the best ways you can see it played is in conjunction with another game called Game Of Thrones. Here is how it works! You pick a person – a good person – and build him or her up to a point where he/she has won enough points to be “Throned”. In religious life this is very often a successful Pastor, Priest or gifted Preacher. The next bit is the hardest for most players because they have to wait – sometimes of a long time. The trick is to find something in the “Throned” that lowers them in the players estimation – proof is advantageous but not required. It may be a perceived character flaw – a mistake – some way in which they disappoint – or, if a player is lucky enough, one of the big “hot” sins. One of these, or something similar, is the que for the stoning to start. If the sin, failure or disappointment is slightly unclear or not easily proved – little stones are used. The are called in the game “Innuendo Stones”. These are a beautiful gray colour. These stones are very important in the game because they alert other players, who may even have been asleep, to the fact that the game is on and the “hunt” is in progress. The player normally wins [in fact a number of players can win at the same time – its one of the quirks of the game] when the “Throned” falls – resigns, moves on or disappears from public view. However – so addicted are some players to the game that they carry on throwing stones well after the game should have ended. But again – there are no rules remember – so this is not penalised.
I heard this week that a well known of the “Throned” in religious circles has fallen under a hail of stones from many players. His failure? Well we won’t go there – other than to say he appears to be deeply wounded, repentant even – but it’s unlikely he will ever be “Throned” again. I do hope and pray he recovers and is restored in love. But his stoning caused me to reflect a little. Who of us [and I include myself especially] if our lives were laid open before the “Stone Throwers” – would not fall down under the hail of “Condemnation Stones” [these are black by the way] ? None – I would suggest.
Does all of this mean there should be no accountability in the Church – no form of discipline or standards of behaviour – no critical evaluation? I don’t think so. I remember my father telling me that as a young man he witnessed another young man in his Church, who had strayed far from the standards expected of him, being disciplined. It fell to his father to pass the discipline of the Church as he was the Leading Elder. He did his duty, before the congregation, but as a broken man with tears streaming down his face. Stone Throwers don’t shed tears. As any good parent knows love and discipline are not mutually exclusive – and God teaches us the very same thing [Psalm 94/ Proverbs 3 / Hebrews 12].
In the final analysis though, surely Jesus interaction with a woman “caught in the act of adultery” [John 8], waiting for the hail of stones the law demanded, is a sharp reminder to us all that only those who are devoid of sin have any right to play the Game of Stones. I pray this game will enter a period of sharp decline and that I’ll have the power to give it up myself!