Adultery, stonings, compassion, and redemption

A Christian Science perspective.

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The front page of The London Times displayed the headline, “Outrage over Iran’s plan to stone woman to death” (July 8). Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s 22-year-old son is risking everything to alert the human rights campaigners to his mother’s plight. She was charged with committing adultery. In response to international outcry, the sentence to stoning has been rescinded, at least for now.

Nine years ago this month, Maryam Ayoubi, an Iranian mother of three, was stoned to death in Tehran, convicted of adultery as well as murder.

I was born in Iran, and the recent news of Ms. Ashtiani moved me to pray. As I prayed, I realized that in many ways, Christ Jesus was a campaigner and activist. Yet it was not so much human rights that he championed but that he lifted thought beyond the human situations to the divine consciousness of Love, in which there is no limitation to the love that God has for all His sons and daughters. God’s love is unconditional.

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Jesus showed the Christ – the tangible love of God for humanity – to all of us by his example. That compassion moved beyond barriers of human limitations. John’s Gospel records an account of a woman being caught in the act of adultery. Jesus stood between the woman and the people, who believed they had a right to stone the woman according to Mosaic law.

That account is, I think, one of the most beautiful stories of the Gospels. It illustrates love acted out, right out from its source, which is divine. As the New International Version translates, “If any one of you is without sin,” Jesus told them, “let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” With that, everyone left.

This story says a lot about the compassion of Jesus. Most wonderful of all is how he treated the woman. Jesus gave her a whole new start; he enabled her to turn over a new page and live life from a wholly different standpoint. He forgave her and set her free to be transformed. He told her he would not pass judgment on her. After all the people had left, Jesus asked the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” He continued, “Then neither do I condemn you.... Go now, and leave your life of sin.” He set the clear path in front of her to choose. This is a promise of the redemptive power of unconditional Love, in which all children of God are seen in His image as sinless and pure. And this is the standard they are to live by.

Jesus' compassion made a new beginning possible for this woman. He challenged her to live life on the higher plane of spiritual freedom.

A God who is all Love cannot leave a single one of His children bereft and hopeless. One of the most challenging aspects of understanding infinite Love is accepting that the nature of God is to love all of us. As consciousness is transformed to know divine Love’s presence, through Jesus’ example, we begin to understand how priceless God's love is. God is unconditional in His acceptance of us as His own reflection, made entirely spiritual in His image – in the image of divine Love. This is the peace that comes to all of us in transformed lives, where nothing can hurt or cause harm.

Our right to self-government and freedom is granted by God – a higher power than that of a people or a government. God's government ensures the reign of unquestionable, eternal Truth for all times, for God’s own loved and precious children. Nothing can take away this right to life that God gave to all. This freedom is the result of God’s infinite and boundless love – a divine freedom that is infinitely beyond and above all human laws and restricted practices, cultures, or beliefs.

“Love is the liberator,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 225). That promise is so aptly stated in this Bible verse: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” (Lam. 3:22).

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