Earlier this week, I posted this over at 2nds, my church’s blog.
It was an open-and-shut case. A prosecutor’s dream. Plenty of witnesses to the actual crime, apparently. And an abundance of character witnesses—or rather, witnesses to lack of character. The criminal herself—I mean, alleged criminal bore the guilt on her face. A confession was imminent.
But somehow the prosecution lost its case, as evidenced by one stone after another dropping to the ground, those rocks previously clutched by angry hands but released with the realization that self-righteousness is no righteousness at all. These stones were grasped with murderous intentions by those who had assumed position of judge, jury, warden, and executioner. Jesus, however, in his verdict of a dozen words or so not only released the criminal but indicted her accusers.
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” he says to the semi-mob of angry, religious men. And then turns to the woman—and I imagine the warmth of his face radiating toward her, the compassion in his eyes almost overwhelming—and says, “Where are your accusers?”
I can hear her broken voice as she responds, “No one, Lord.”
And he speaks words that we all, if we have been rescued from the power of sin and death, have heard but sadly seldom repeat: “Neither do I condemn you.”
The only man left standing was the one who could have thrown the first stone, and countless ones after. Though, instead of condemnation, instead of rendering what would have been a just verdict, Jesus offers grace. But not merely to the woman whom he told to sin no more. He offered grace to her accusers, as well. He helped them to see their own sinfulness and their inability to judge another’s, to see the log in their own eyes. (This may not have been lasting, however, since they did capture Jesus and demand that he be crucified.)
This account of the woman caught in adultery is told by John (in chapter 8), a close follower of Jesus, one who would write a pastoral letter entirely illustrating love. We, John would say, are to be like Jesus, known for our love—our love for one another and the love we show to the lost. But how can we love when we are too busy judging?
Perhaps we should lay down our gavels. Take off the black robes we weren’t intended to wear anyway. And be counted among the guilty. Among the guilty but not the condemned.
Some Final Notes
Here are some additional thoughts regarding yesterday’s post.
- Jesus judged the religious most harshly because they failed to see their need for grace. These Pharisees were the pot constantly calling the kettle black. (In my reading of the gospels, I’ve determined there’s one thing I don’t want to be: religious.) Jesus came to do away with their religion and invite them to be a part of the Kingdom of God. That invitation extends to us.
- We cannot expect those who don’t know Jesus to act as though they do. As followers of Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit, who gives us the ability to say no to sin, to say no to idolatry, and yes to real life. Jesus was always firm with the religious because they were supposed to have known God and to share with others how they could too. Instead, the religious created lists of rules, of things you should and shouldn’t do. But from the Garden, life was never about rules but about knowing God. We have freedom to be who God has always meant us to be.
- As brothers and sisters in the family of God, it is our responsibility to help one another. We don’t do this by judging each other according to our own ideas of what is and isn’t acceptable. We do this by lifting one another up in prayer, by serving one another with our gifts, and by authentically loving. Older siblings help younger ones. (Personally, I love watching our older girls care for our younger boys. It might be an extension of her love of playing with dolls, but Lindsay, in particular, likes to help them pick out clothes to wear. They both look out for the younger.)
- If you find a genuine friend, a brother or sister in Christ, one you can be completely honest with about your failings, one you can celebrate successes with, one who will stand with you when the rocks begin to fly—you do your best to keep that friendship. Nurture it. Cherish it. Don’t let anything break it apart. Such a relationship is rare and a priceless gift from God. If you haven’t received this gift, pray to the Father of lights who gives all good things, and begin to be that friend for someone else.