Life Notes—September 5, 2013
“…they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law of Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’” John 8:5,7
My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Everett, taught me not to point at others. She illustrated how each time I pointed a finger at another, three fingers pointed back at me. The point was to use care when accusing others of wrongdoing. All of us make mistakes and do things we should not do. Jesus made the same point several times in his ministry. In Matthew 7:3 he says, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” Likewise, in Luke 6:37 Jesus is quoted, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned…”
The Gospel of John records the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery. A group drags the woman to Jesus. They remind him the Law of Moses commands she be stoned. Jesus does not deny she deserves death for her sin. Instead, he reminds the crowd of their own shortcomings by inviting those without sin to throw the first stone. He knows everyone in the crowd has sinned. No one dared throw a stone at the woman. To do so would imply he or she had never sinned, an admission of impossible piety. As the crowd disperses, Jesus asks who has condemned her. She replies, “No one, sir.” Jesus responds, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin, again.”
This story is intriguing in a couple of ways. First, Jesus shrewdly warns the crowd about judging others. He does so in a way that does not condone the woman’s sin. Rather, he reminds the crowd of their own sinful nature. We are often too quick to condemn others. Second, while Jesus forgives the woman of her sin, he also tells her not to sin again. In that sense, her forgiveness was not free. She was told to alter her lifestyle so she would not continue to sin. In order for forgiveness to result in positive change, we must repent of our sin. Repentance requires (1) acknowledging we have sinned, and (2) turning away from that sinful behavior. Forgiveness is not a get-out-of-jail-free card allowing us to freely judge others or continue unhealthy behaviors. Mrs. Everett and Jesus remind us that one finger pointed at another leaves three pointing back at us.
A new sermon series begins this Sunday on “The Sermon on the Mount.” This week’s sermon will be “Redefining Happiness: The Beatitudes,” based on Matthew 5:1-11. Tom will be preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary. Mitch is preaching at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.
Come home to church this Sunday. Leave your stones at the door.
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator