Take A Really Good Look
They said this to test Him, hoping that they would have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and began writing on the ground with His finger. However, when they persisted in questioning Him, He straightened up and said, “He who is without [any] sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
The moment was full of equal parts drama and comedy. A woman had been caught in the act of adultery, and the crowd wanted Jesus to condemn her. They had stones in hand, ready to execute the death sentence. They glared at Jesus to see what He would do, and suddenly He stopped to the ground and began doodling in the dirt! What in the world was He doing?
They were confused and outraged, but the ones in front near Jesus were the first to notice what He was writing in the dirt. Nudges and whispers made their way through the crowd as men probably saw something they never expected to see that day: their own sins written in plain sight in the ground. But the men wouldn’t quit. They still wanted to see the woman die for her sins. Then Jesus stood up, looked at the men, and said, “Sure, stone her, but let the one without sin throw the first stone.”
In our lives, we often want people who sin against us to pay for what they’ve done. We hold stones of condemnation and gossip in our hands, and we can’t wait to let them sail! Sometimes, though, Jesus writes in the dirt of our souls, “Do you remember when you were so selfish? It’s no different from what that person did to you. Now, do you still want to blast away to get revenge?”
When we take a good look inside ourselves, we realize that we’re guilty too. So maybe we should put our rocks down and walk away.
Some people find fault like there’s a reward for it.
People sometimes quote “Judge not” and stop there but that’s not fully what Jesus said. Here is the full quote:
“Do not judge and criticize and condemn [others unfairly with an attitude of self-righteous superiority as though assuming the office of a judge], so that you will not be judged [unfairly]. For just as you [hypocritically] judge others [when you are sinful and unrepentant], so will you be judged; and in accordance with your standard of measure [used to pass out judgment], judgment will be measured to you. Why do you look at the [insignificant] speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice and acknowledge the [egregious] log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me get the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite (play-actor, pretender), first get the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Usually we hear those words from someone who is trying to excuse their conduct. What Jesus was teaching is the we aren’t to unfairly judge others. To be totally clear we have to have perfect knowledge about that person and their situation before we can accurately pass judgement. That doesn’t mean that we cannot judge actions. For example we have permission to call an untruth a lie but we may not categorize the person who speaks it a liar. Perhaps they really believe that it’s true or there are pressures we don’t know about that moved them to speak the untruth. Since we can’t see their heart we can’t pass judgement on them but we can call an untruth a lie. We are making a judgement about actions. We have the Scriptures that tell us what things are sins and we can say that but as to whether someone is going to heaven or hell is way above our pay grade.
What Jesus taught is the law of reciprocity. How we judge is how we will be judged. When we set the standards for others high, then they can expect us to meet that standard. Otherwise we are hypocritical when we insist that others live a certain way and we ourselves don’t live that way. In Matthew 5 Jesus gives us how we are to judge others and how our judgement will affect us.
“Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
In Matthew 6 we are given a powerful lesson on forgiveness:
For if you forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses.
In each of these verses we see Jesus saying to us that how we deal with others and their sins and failures will also be how we are dealt with. I know none of us who don’t need mercy, grace, understanding and patience. So when we view others we must take into consideration our own sins. That’s the point of the story of the woman taken in adultery. Jesus said that only someone with no sins could exact judgement on someone who has sinned. The conversation between the woman and Jesus takes the lesson beyond “judge not.” After all had went away and Jesus has asked the woman where those who were condemning her were and she has said there are none, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you.” Many wish to stop here as though Jesus was excusing or condoning her sin. That’s where people want us to stop today in the name of tolerance and acceptance. They insist that if we truly love we fully accept. Jesus continues, “Go and sin no more.” The outcome is acknowledgement that an action or conduct is a sin. Though the person isn’t condemned- given no hope- they are commanded to cease the sin. Showing mercy isn’t the same as accepting sinful behavior. Giving forgiveness isn’t continuing to tolerate sinful conduct. God gives us mercy and grace but doesn’t accept our continued sinful behavior. He calls us to repent- to change. God gives us forgiveness but doesn’t allow us to continue with sinful conduct. He calls us to die to the old self and to live as a new creation.
Judgement is pointing out others sins without being willing to help them overcome them. It’s easy to find faults, it’s not so easy to find solutions. It’s easy to write people off, it’s not so easy to give them a lift. So we operate as Jesus did. Because we love we call to attention sinful conduct and behavior. Because we love we come alongside the one in that bondage and help them become liberated through the power of Christ.
Dr. John Thompson