Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2010
Scripture: Romans 1:16, 17, 22-23; Romans 2:1-10, 17-23; Romans 3:1, 2, 10-18, 23.
They say she deserves to be stoned. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old Iranian mother of two, was accused of adultery in 2006. This is considered a serious offense under Islamic law. In fact, it is the only capital offense punishable by stoning. Although the court had cited no evidence, she has already spent five years in jail and been subjected to 99 lashes.
Mehrangiz Kar is an attorney and activist who specializes in women’s rights and family law. Concerned for Ashtiani and other women, she described the stoning process in a recent CNN article:
“Imagine a woman dying under a rain of stones while buried in the ground to the top of her breasts. Imagine faceless figures throwing pebbles at her. Imagine her last thoughts, wishes and dreams. Imagine her hoping to magically survive this brutal punishment. Imagine her children watching her bleed and moan as people throw stones with ignorance and cruelty. Imagine this nightmare taking place under the present-day laws of a country.” 1
That image has been a nightmare for Ashtiani's 22-year-old son Sajad, and 17-year-old daughter Farideh. On a mission to save their mother’s life, they have risked their own by reaching out to the world for support. They told a London-based newspaper last week that they believe their mother has been unjustly accused and has already been punished for a crime she did not do. “She's innocent, she's been there for five years for doing nothing,” Sajad told the Guardian. “Imagining her, bound inside a deep hole in the ground, stoned to death, has been a nightmare for me and my sister for all these years.” 2 Thanks to her children’s efforts and a worldwide outcry for justice, Ashtiani’s case is presently on hold.
Attorney Kar, who has practiced law in the Islamic Republic for 22 years, shared her discouragement over this and similar cases by stating, “I have worked on numerous stoning cases. Once during my career I took a risk and personally approached a young cleric who was the judge of one of my stoning cases and asked, ‘Don't you think this cruel and inhumane law of stoning should be changed?’ The young judge looked at me with compassion and pity and said, ‘Sister, don't you utter this statement somewhere else! Stoning is a verdict set by God. The earthly human cannot change a verdict set by God.’ ”
She went on to write, “I never understood how the merciful God who is said to have created the humankind would treat its creatures with such a degree of malice.”
The good news is that Jesus showed us a different picture of God. The story is told in John 8: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” But Jesus didn’t answer them. Rather, he bent down and began writing something on the ground. When they kept questioning Him, Jesus said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” But no one threw. Instead, they walked away. Only Jesus and the woman were left when He said to her: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She answered that there was no one. And then our merciful God speaks. The Bible says that He declared these words: “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
This week’s memory text in Romans 3:23 says that, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” That would be discouraging if it weren’t followed by verse 24: “…and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” And verse 25 tells how: “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through his blood.”
Jesus has done His part. He died in our place. Our part is to repent of our sins, to confess them and ask for forgiveness. When we do this, even though we are clearly guilty, we aren’t met with stones, but with nail-scarred hands.