I want to hold myself and my church accountable regarding my/our love of people. Lent Week 4, Day 20
If you have any knowledge of the Bible and its stories, you are probably familiar with the story of the woman caught in adultery. She is brought to Jesus because she was “caught in the act.” The crowd of the religious right is ready to stone her to death. Jesus says whoever is not guilty of sin can throw the first stone. The crowd disperses (the old people first followed by those who are younger). The woman is left with Jesus. She is forgiven and sent away with a charge to change her lifestyle.
There are three distinct people (or groups) in this story.
The woman participated in a sinful activity. This is all we know. There is the chance that she was forced or manipulated simply for the purpose of tricking Jesus. There is also the possibility that she was in an ongoing affair. All we know is that she was caught in the act of adultery. (Oh, we also know that the man she was committing the adultery with was not brought forward to be accused.)
Can you imagine having to stand before Jesus on the worst day possible? The genius of Jesus’ statement that the one without sin could cast the first stone is that all of us know we could be in the same position as the woman. We have just been lucky.
Think of it this way: how many of you have never received a speeding ticket? Does this mean you have never exceeded the speed limit? Or is it more likely you have just never been caught?
So we have this woman who did something wrong. And it is used strictly for politically religious purposes. No care or concern is shown for her. Her situation is what is important to the crowd. The policy decision Jesus was going to make is all that mattered to them. She was the original “welfare queen;” the original poster child for people to say that people don’t matter when they make poor choices.
Jesus is not swayed by a frenzied crowd out for blood. While they are yelling and screaming, he is kneeling down and drawing in the dirt. Jesus is also not going to be distracted. Jesus stays focused on the issue of main importance: the woman.
Does Jesus have standards? Does Jesus have an opinion on sexual purity? Does Jesus care about the decisions people make? I think we can all agree the answer is yes.
But more than any policy, decision, or judgment Jesus is concerned about the person. Did she do wrong? Yes. Does she deserve death? Maybe, from a legal standpoint. Is she a child of God? Absolutely.
And that matters more than anything else.
They are bloodthirsty. They want to be proven right. They want to show this “leader” what real leadership looks like. They want to expose him as fake. They are not concerned with humanity. They know what is right and wrong and by golly, they have found someone doing wrong. They will make her pay. And they will embarrass someone they don’t like at the same time.
They are not really concerned with policy or rules, either. They just want to be self-righteous.
But the older people at least know a little bit more. When told to do some quick self-reflection, they probably realized a couple of things: first, they knew they had done wrong before; two, they knew they would be setting a precedent. If they acted with condemnation now, others would act with condemnation when they got found out.
The younger people take longer to come to this realization. But they are also part of an angry mob. When the anger subsides and rationality reappears, the death of the ones we demonize is no longer as appealing.
That brings me to me.
Which one of these people do I identify with? If I am truly going to hold myself accountable, I have to acknowledge the ways I act like the group. I act all self-righteous that I would never bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to be stoned.
But I almost definitely would ask Jesus to stone the ones who did.
I find it easy to identify with Jesus. Because I can be that arrogant.
I find it easy to identify with the woman. Because I am self-reflective enough to know what I have done wrong.
But I struggle with identifying with the group. Because I am not ready to admit that I can be that self-righteous.
But if I am going to try and hold anyone else accountable, I better start owning up to my own stuff first.