We are all familiar with the story in John 8 about the woman caught in adultery. When Jewish leaders brought the woman to Jesus, they were eager to stone her. She broke the law. Caught in the act. The town leaders judged her guilty and the punishment was death. (I think it’s ironic that they didn’t appear to hold the man accountable.) How miserable she must have felt. Shamed and embarrassed, full of guilt and self-loathing in front of the people from her town. Can you imagine how miserable her life must have been like at that moment?
“What are you going to do, Jesus?” they must have wondered, “How are you going to respond?”
Jesus didn’t. He bent down and scribbled in the dirt. Then He got up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” They all left because none of them were without sin. They felt justified judging a woman caught in her sin, but were hard pressed to carry out their judgement when Jesus called them on their own sins.
Jesus treated her with compassion. He didn’t condemn her and sent her on her way admonishing her to turn from her sin.
The religious leaders wanted to focus on the punishment for sin, but Jesus shifted the focus to the judgement being heaped upon her. Jesus lived the higher law here, choosing to love the woman instead of berating her for being an adulteress.
How do we treat people living careless, indifferent, often sinfully wretched lives? Ray Stedman says this:
“We ought not to come shaking our finger at them, pointing out how terrible they are and what evil things they are doing to themselves. We ought to come sensing the agony, the hurt, the inward shame, the loneliness, misery and anguish they are going through. That is the way God feels and that is the way we should feel too.”
Do we judge folks living careless, reckless, sinful lives as less than ourselves? Do we alienate them, ignore them, berate them, judge them? I know I’ve been guilty of judging like the Pharisees before.
If we’re to walk in obedience to Christ, Jesus teaches us to be compassionate and loving, even towards those we judge as sinners.
I need to remember that like the adulteress, I’ve committed grievous sins Jesus died for at the cross. His love never fails me. He can do nothing other than love me and show me mercy, even, and especially, in my misery.