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August 24, 2017

August 24, 2017

"Let He Who Is Without Sin
Cast the First Stone"

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman….and said to Jesus, ‘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 bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’

‘No one, sir,’ she said.

‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’” John 8:3-11 NIV

To me, this passage from John is one of the most powerful stories of Christ’s ministry.  Although I am always in the position of the woman who needs that divine mercy, I put myself all too often with the “teachers of the law and the Pharisees.” I pass judgement far too often. 

Does God need me to do it? That passage in John says pretty clearly, NO. When I was a child, it used to bother me that the Gospel writer didn’t say what Christ was writing in the dust. I thought that it must have been something significant. Now, I suspect that He was just doodling, because the whole situation was so insignificant. How impressed can God be with one human sinner pointing the finger at another human sinner? As Paul wrote in Romans, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. 

Should I pass judgement? Again, that Gospel passage gives me a firm NO. When I condemn my brothers and sisters, I conveniently deflect my attention from the darkness in my own heart and my own shortcomings, and I see my fellow men as less worthy than I am. As Bonhoeffer put it, “By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” 

When I’ve had to admit to a mistake or a moral failing, being met with kindness and compassion rather than anger and condemnation gave me the encouragement and strength to try again, to try to do better next time. How can I fail to grant that to my brothers and sisters? 

If, like me, you sometimes have trouble refraining from judging others, perhaps you’ll join me in memorizing this verse today:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)