The Older Ones First

The older ones first.


Things change as you age, often not for the better. For example, an older gentleman was an eyewitness against a young man accused of theft. The defense attorney hoped to discredit the witness by questioning the old man’s vision.


“Sir,” the lawyer began. “Would you state your age for the record?”


“I’m 86,” the witness replied.


“You identified my client as the perpetrator,” the lawyer stated. “Yet, it was dark when you witnessed this crime. At your age, sir, just how far can you see at night?”


“Hmm, don’t guess I know.” The old man paused before continuing, “But I can see the moon. How far is that?”


I can’t vouch for the gentleman’s night vision, but he certainly saw a clever way to answer. Perhaps some kinds of vision improve with age.


That may explain a simple phrase in the New Testament that I just saw for the first time when I was 50. I’m sure my eyes scanned the words before, but I don’t recall ever really seeing them. They come in John’s recounting of Jesus’ response to those who brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. Her accusers insisted she should be stoned as the Old Testament law specified. Yet, when they asked Jesus what should be done, he replied, “"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).


One by one, as each realized that he was not “without sin,” they all left. Then come those words I mentioned, “the older ones first” (verse 9).


Why is that? Why would the older ones leave first? Certainly not because older folks move faster. So, why?


Could it be that the older ones left first because they could see more clearly? With the accumulated failures of many years weighing on their consciences, they perceived more easily how little right they had to accuse someone else.


Younger ones, take note. Older ones often have something to teach, and you would be wise to follow their lead, especially in being quick to correct self rather than condemning others.


Older ones, take heart. We can still lead. Like these “older ones” John described, we can see clearly that we are not qualified to condemn. Let’s lead the way in humility, in walking away from judging another. In mercy, may we older ones go first.