The religious scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Jesus, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. The law gives orders to stone such a person. What do you say?”
Looking at the woman and considering the words of the religious leaders, Jesus looked at the woman and said, “How troubling.” He then picked up the first stone and threw it at her.
If you have ever read John 8 you know that is not what happened.
Instead, Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When the religious scholars kept 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.
Later Jesus told the religious scholars, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.”
This story could just as easily be written today as it was two millennia ago. The news headlines and Twitter world have been ablaze as a couple of Christian leaders who believe they are the arbiters of God’s judgment against the evil-doers and “heretics” of the world.
In a recent flap ordained Southern Baptist minister and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee commented on an out-of-wedlock pregnancy of Oscar-winner Natalie Portman. Huckabee said, “one of the things that’s troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, ‘Hey look, you know, we’re having children, we’re not married, but we’re having these children, and they’re doing just fine.’”
The Twitter world was on complete fire a couple of weeks ago as John Piper, senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist church in Minneapolis, Minnesota wrote, “Farewell, Rob Bell” in regards to Bell’s new book, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” Despite the fact that the book has STILL not been released, Piper prematurely concluded that the message of the book was one of Universalism and subsequently disbarred Bell from Christianity. Others who HAVE read advance copies of the book say it is not a message of Universalism.
I believe both Huckabee and Piper believe they are sincerely trying to follow Christ but there is a disturbing similarity in how they view others who are “outside” of their version of the truth…even when their version of truth many times does not look like or align with the way, life, and teachings of Jesus. The way they convey their version of the truth comes across more like the judgmental and arrogant ways of the religious scholars and Pharisees than Jesus. It is a way of being quick to label, discount, minimize, belittle, and ostracize people when they are believed to be outside of their own perceived religious orthodoxy.
Let me be quick to say that I am far from perfect myself. I am not speaking from on high about these men. I am simply asking them…and all of us who claim to follow Christ…to use more wisdom and discernment before making off-handed comments about people or comments to people. Each one of us ought to be asking ourselves whether or not our words and actions come across more like the judgmental religious scholars who are quick to cast the first stone or as the non-judging and loving servant of the world…Jesus.
If we claim to follow the one who does not judge…we ought not be those who judge either. We have not been called to be the religious moral police who should arrest, convict, and make a lesson out of the wretched sinners of the world. We have not been asked to take the position on high to let the lowly heathens know they have trespassed against the law and the most high God. And we have not been asked to give up on a world that is going to “hell-in-a-hand-basket” because the sinners cannot measure up to “our religious standards.”
A follower of Christ ought not behave or be viewed as a religious neo-Pharisee who gets stirred up into a frenzy about the sinfulness and waywardness of the world and then who quickly picks up the condemning stone of judgment. Rather, a follower of Christ ought to be quick in grace and love, quick to develop relationships and walk beside people no matter who they are, and quick to pick up the self-sacrificial towel of Jesus and serve everyone- even the worst of the worst. Was that not who Jesus himself loved and served? Was it not those who had been cast out by society AND by the religious system? We, as followers of Christ, must realize that we are as much the unworthy sinners as anyone else and there is no room for self-righteousness, arrogance, or judgment.
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why we in the Church are so afraid of extending love and grace to those whom we disagree with? Do you believe that God is going to punish you for extending love and grace to those “who don’t deserve it?” If that is the case then God ought to be mad at Jesus for doing the exact same thing! Or, has God made you the sole protector of “orthodoxy” and given you the responsibility of being his bulldog? I think Jesus was the embodiment of “orthodoxy” yet he still found a way to live in humility, grace, and love. Ought that not be our way as well? I wonder if God is all about us getting every single detail right and making people feel hated and worthless in the process…or is all about us giving grace even when we don’t completely agree with someone and then loving them despite who they are or what they have done. I don’t have to be right about every single detail…but I do have to love.
The truth is that the highest standard that Jesus gave us was to love God with all of our heart, mind, and soul and to love others as ourselves. That means EVERYONE! If Jesus was willing to risk extending love and grace to each of us who didn’t deserve it…are we not willing to risk extending love and grace to others as well?
Let us be the people who are not off-handed in our reaction and comments about others…but who walk in grace and love to demonstrate and teach the world the best and highest ways of Jesus. Let us be the kind of people who seek truth together but do it in a way that shows humility, grace, and love along the way.