By: Curt Williams, Founder & Executive Director
It was several years ago. I was reading the account in chapter 8 of the Gospel of John that recounts the time when the Pharisees, hoping to trap Jesus in a point of biblical justice, brought before Him a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. In Judaic law, this offense was punishable by death, and these men wanted to see Jesus’s reaction as they assumed that He would be caught between disobeying the law or approving of an execution.
It is curious that nowhere is the man who was a party to the adultery mentioned, but only the woman. As we still see today, there are those who will protect one offender while condemning another for the very same offense.
Reading on, I could imagine the spirit of the accusers, and the patient and the baffling response of Jesus as He stooped and began to write in the dirt at His feet. Much has been speculated regarding what He was writing, and if it might have had any influence on the men gathered and ready to stone the woman. Obviously, it was not that important, or John would have recorded it for us, but Jesus’s reply was masterful. It flipped the script on those who felt so self-righteous that they could ignore their own failures while shaming and highlighting the failure of another.
As Jesus invited the one in the group of accusers that might be without sin to throw his stone first, strong conviction ran thought the cabal of would-be executioners. Beginning with the oldest, each man reluctantly dropped his stone and walked away. Once again, the brilliant words of the God-man Jesus left speechless those who were wise in their own eyes.
Jesus then asked the shamed and broken woman if there were any left to accuse her. She replied that there were none. He asked, “Didn’t even one of them accuse you?” She replied, “No, Lord.”
He then spoke the perfect words for the moment, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
What a great story. I gathered my Bible and notes and was preparing to begin my day when I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to be still. I closed my eyes and meditated on the passage I had read, and in that quiet and introspective moment, I felt the voice of the Father ask me, “Curt, who are you more like? Are you more like the woman broken over your sin, or are you more like the stone throwers?”
At first, I regretted that I had opened my Bible that morning. I suppose that I was looking for encouragement or something really deep that might make me appear biblically astute. Yet as I sat and pondered the Lord’s question, it was clear that the answer was difficult to admit. I had certainly drifted from the realization of my spiritual destitution outside of Christ.
I had forgotten that without the unearned redemption that I had received, I had no intrinsic value to fall back on.
Somehow, I had lost touch with my natural depravity which had been my default until the blood of Jesus covered and eradicated my sin. I had no point to brag on, or any act by which I could assume goodness. I was a beggar of mercy, crawling up to the foot of the cross, hoping that a drop of grace would fall on my leprous body.
Yet there I was, with a warm stone in my hand, ready to hurl it at a filthy sinner.
The answer was clear. I had cloaked myself with stealthy judgment and wrapped myself in the garb of the Pharisee. There was little resemblance to the broken sinner, fully cognizant of their hopeless state, but all the marks of the stone thrower were present. With a broken heart, I teared up and repented.
I wish that this was just a one-time diversion from the truth, but I have discovered that, like most of humanity, my default is set to judge and condemn. I need a regular reset.
I need moments to reflect on the hateful, addicted, perverted man that I was before Jesus reached down and saved me.
I need to ponder my condition and the powerful fact that I did nothing to gain my salvation. Even today, I am powerless outside of His power.
It may seem bizarre to many, but I want to retain the humility of the adulterous woman so that I can hold back the temptation to again take up the stone. Today, we are hearing a lot about justice, but we are hearing very little about grace. We are hearing both peaceful protestors and angry mobs demand justice when what is so desperately needed is the beauty of grace.
I hope to never receive justice, and I do not want to demand justice from others. I want to continue to receive and issue grace.
What about you? Have you personalized the question? Which are you more like–the broken, adulterous woman or the self-righteous, religious stone thrower? We seem to have too many folks who believe that their “rightness” gives them permission to condemn others, and unfortunately, many of them claim to follow the One who clearly showed them their error in John chapter 8.
For me, I will do all I can to liberally give grace and to ignore all the tempting and available stones at my feet.