Skip to main content

When others condemn us. When we condemn ourselves.

"He will vindicate you in broad daylight,
and publicly defend your cause."
Psalm 37:6



Upon reading this, I immediately thought of the story about the "adulteress woman."  If you don't know the story, it's recorded in John 8.  Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include this story but I believe it's here for good reason.

The scene is this:

It is early morning.  Hundreds of people are already at the temple praying.  Some stayed all night and slept in the temple courts.  They have come with their grief, their petitions, their repentance.  
Jesus walks into the middle of the crowd and begins to teach them.  He tells them about the deep love of God.  He has compassion on their suffering and tells them that they are forgiven.  He heals them.

And right into the middle of the crowd storms a league of the religious elite.  These are the bad dudes that tried to lay claim to God's attention and authority.  Their grimacing faces set like stone and determination.  Their regal robes flying out behind them in the cool morning air.

They are clutching the small arms of a woman.  She can barely keep up with their fast pace.  Her hair is disheveled.  Her makeup is smeared.  You can tell that she has been crying and she is only half-clothed.

They make her stand in front of Jesus.  And in front of the entire crowd.  "Look at this woman!" they taunt, "We have caught her in the very act of adultery!  The Law demands that she be stoned.  Right here!  Right now!"  

(Scripture says that they were trying to trap Jesus.  This was a very calculated plan.  She had been tricked and seduced.  They knew her temptations and they knew exactly where to find her "in the act.")

The crowd looks to Jesus.  Some of them immediately grab the stones that lie around the temple wall perimeter.  

Jesus just bends down and writes in the temple court dirt.  Some have speculated that He was writing the sins of the religious elite.  Pride. Lying. Vanity. Deceit....

Perhaps he was writing the words that he had just taught the crowd.  "God is compassionate.  God is love.  God does not condemn.  God will forgive."  Perhaps the crowd began to chant these words. Perhaps a deep hope welled up from within them.  They wanted to believe that God would be so compassionate to forgive this woman.  To forgive them.

"Go ahead," Jesus answers, "Any one of you that is without sin, go ahead and stone her." 

One by one, they dropped their stones.  They slithered away into the shadows and left her standing before him.  She must have felt fear.  She must have felt shame.  And yet, she stood.

"Where are they?" Jesus asked.  "Did no one condemn you?"
"No.  No one.  They are gone."
"Well, I don't condemn you either."

I believe the next line, "Go and sin no more," is much, much deeper than we think.
Did Jesus really think that she would just stop sinning at that point?  No.

Read the next few verses.  He says, "I am the light of the world.  The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Jesus makes a strong contrast between himself and the group of religious men that had just caused this ridiculous scene.  Jesus was light.  He had embraced a "sinful woman" in the bright light of day.  He was not ashamed to align himself with her and separate Himself from those who "walk in darkness," that is, the religious elite.

His words, in essence, are for her to walk in God's light.  Now that she was forgiven and whole, He warned her to continue walking in the light.  
Now that no one has stoned you... and God has not stoned you... 
do not start picking up stones to condemn others.

Walk in the light.

Psalm 37 says that God publicly defends us in broad daylight.  With all of our nastiness, our sin, and our hidden actions fully exposed.  He defends us.  He is not ashamed to defend us in broad daylight.  He does not shy away from us.

Verse 10 says, "Evil men will soon disappear; you will stare at the spot where they once were, but they will be gone...the Lord laughs in disgust at them, for He knows that their day is coming."

"Where are they?  Did no one condemn you?"

She looks around and sees that her prosecutors are gone.  She sees nothing but love and compassion on the faces around her.  The crowd had heard Jesus' message and they had received.  They knew that she was them, and they were her.  Each one with his own deep sin.  Each one deserving of condemnation but not receiving it.  

I picture Jesus saying "Go" but that she meekly asks, "Mind if I stay?"  She kneels down into the dirt and smiles as a woman near by scoots close and drapes her own shawl around her naked shoulders.  

Sweet compassion.  Fully vindicated in broad daylight.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I visited a Mosque. And went to church.

Today, our local International Rescue Committee organization hosted a solidarity event at the Islamic Society of Wichita while their members were gathering for Friday prayers.  We stood outside, held signs, and let them know that we are with them.  That we are forthem.

But before the event I met my new friend, Ratna, for a tour and some lunch in the well-worn gym.  I was running a little early so I sat by myself on the concrete fountain in front of the building.
It was a beautiful day.  The sun was warming me.  I could smell the food cooking.  A suburban in the parking lot said, "Girl Scout Cookies For Sale!" written in white shoe polish on the dark windows.

Pretty soon, Ratna pulled up in her minivan, tagged along behind by her 5-year-old son with his bright blue iPad and headphones.  He was watching a Pokemon cartoon and was humming along to the songs.  Skipping as he went.  Ratna smiled, hugged me, and led me inside for a tour of their worship space.

It was a beautiful b…

What it means when a narcissistic pastor says, "I love the church"

I ran across this article while going through a rough place in my life.  It had profound meaning for me in dealing with some of the individuals in my life that have narcissistic traits. The article highlights the fact that when a narcissist says, “I love you,” he really means that he loves the way that you (fill in the blank): take care of his needs, focus your energy on him, submit, etc. Individuals that have been in relationships with narcissists often admit to feeling crazy, not recognizing the abuse while it was occurring, and to keeping secrets to cover for his abuse, infidelity, etc.  I wonder if this is what many people are recognizing in the #exevangelical movement.  Because as I was going through this article again, I began to realize that many of the narcissistic traits could be applied to the many pastors and men in church leadership that I have known through the years. Being in church ministry for twelve years, I became proficient at silence and lies to cover the behavior…

For my 40th birthday, I let go

It was my birthday present to myself. I decided to let go of the desire to have a healthy relationship with my mother. 40-years-old seemed right for me to make this decision.  I have debated it for years. I have been in a cloud of hope the past year, with my mother.  I always get frustrated at myself for being sucked into the cloud of hope.  The fog of delusion.  Damn but isn’t hope hard to surrender?!  I have always felt guilty about letting go.  I have always wanted to give it another go.  Try again.  Hope again.  Maybe she’ll change.  Maybe things will improve. But when another birthday went by with no call and no card, I decided to end my own agony.  I once heard that there was a woman who went to meet with the Dalai Lama.  She had experienced a ton of trauma in her life and she was worn ragged and thin.  After telling him some of her life story he looked at her with his sweet smile and asked, “Have you suffered enough yet?” Sometimes I ask myself the same thing.  Yes, I have suf…