How John 8:1-11 Informs My Faith
What part of “Do not judge” is so difficult for us to understand and follow? It’s an important question for us all to reflect on.
Over and over in the New Testament we are told not to judge others. Jesus says it plainly in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged (Matthew 7:1).”
And Jesus wonderfully shows us how to withhold our judgment in John 8:1-11. Just as this story of the woman taken in adultery is controversial as Scripture because it does not appear in the earliest manuscripts, it is also, perhaps, controversial in its point.
As Jesus is teaching, the powers that be bring a woman they claim was caught in the act of adultery. When they ask Jesus what He says to this, He just bends down to the ground and swirls his finger in the dust. Finally, as they continue to pester Him, Jesus exclaims, “Let any one among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” The accusers melt away, leaving just the woman and Jesus, writing again in the dust. When she confirms that no one has condemned her, Jesus says, “Nor do I. Go and sin no more.” Wow. That’s the way I want to be.
Jesus never even gets close to judging this woman. He does not assume that those who say she was taken in the very act of sinning against the seventh commandment are right about her. There is no evidence given that she committed the sin she is accused of. Jesus sends her forth exclaiming, “Sin no more.” He knows she is a sinner like everyone else, including her accusers.
In our time, the powers that be routinely bring lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people before Jesus, claiming to have caught them in sin. Jesus’ response is still the challenge: Let the one without sin punish them. He makes no judgment one way or the other on the purported sin of LGBT people, sending us all out as He does the woman, “Go and sin no more.”
Jesus shows us in this story how God loves us and yet we find it so excruciatingly difficult to let go of judgment as Jesus does here. Paul clearly struggles to be like Jesus with regard to judgment. For example, Paul works hard to articulate himself in Romans Chapter 14. He finally confronts us with the question, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or your sister (Romans 14:10)?” Why, indeed.
Yet, Paul has answered his own question at the start of this chapter when he refers to “quarreling over opinions (Romans 14:1).” That is always what we are doing — we are always just arguing about our interpretations of Scripture or our opinions of what God’s desires of us. And it really gets nasty when we conflate our opinion with God’s will. This is what the powers that be were doing with that poor woman, identifying their will with God’s will. This is what Jesus refused to do even though He could have done it, as God’s only begotten Son.
We are allowed to have our opinions and our interpretations of Scripture but we are not allowed to equate those with God’s judgment. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and therefore we have no business judging anyone.
I want to be like Jesus writing in the dust, challenging us to cast the first stone and sending us all away to sin no more without saying what that means for each of us. Only Jesus knows and He lovingly sends every one of us on our way. This is how the story of the woman taken in adultery informs my faith.
Do you join me in this?