Tonight’s blog is a bit more personal to me than some. Throughout most of my life, I’ve tried to do the right thing. I’ve sought after God, I’ve served my community, I’ve loved my family, and I’ve tried to be good to everyone I meet. Yet, like all of us, there have been times when I’ve fallen flat on my face from poor decisions; sometimes hurting those I love the most.
During those times of personal failure, whether public or not, I’ve experienced the wonderful grace of a loving God. People, on the other hand, have been another story. What is so freely given by our heavenly father, is difficult to come by from some of those whom we share this beautiful world with.
Surely, there are those to whom forgiving others is as natural as eating and sleeping. Why is it so much easier for some than others to forgive? From my own experience, it’s because they too have been in a place where they were in need of forgiveness themselves and found it.
For the past several days I’ve had the Bible story of the woman caught in adultery in my heart. In Jesus’s time, if caught in the act of adultery as she was, it was punishable by stoning; to death. This woman, who had been caught in the act, was dragged before Jesus who was sitting and writing on the ground.
As the woman pleaded for mercy, her accusers quoted the law to Jesus and asked His opinion as to what they should do all the while trying to trap Him. At that moment, I’m sure His mind was far less concerned with their judgmental testing of His faith than it was of her brokenness; both for being caught and knowing her brokenness before being caught.
His response to them sums up the entire gospel for me and it is one of my favorite quotes in the Bible. He looked at them and said, ‘He who is guilty of no sin, throw the first stone…’ One by one they dropped their stones on the ground knowing they too were adulterers, liars, and broken vessels. Left alone with the woman, Jesus asked her where her accusers were, and she said they were gone. He looked at her and said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more’.
All of us have been on one side of that story in our lives. I know I have. I have had to fight the sense of self-righteousness when it swelled within while seeing the fallen sit on trial; whether in court or in the court of public opinion. I’ve also been on the receiving end of those with stones accusing me of both true and untrue offenses, gleefully ready to stone me to death out of ‘righteous’ anger.
Jesus settled the issue for us in one pivotal moment in time by asking us all to judge ourselves before judging others and then extending undeserved grace & mercy. His simple, yet powerful example of love goes beyond our ability to fully comprehend leaving us with the same choice; if any of us are without sin, then we can throw the first stone. The reality is, none of us are without fault.
This is a hard thing for some who have felt betrayed or hurt. The need for the offender to pay a price takes over, and if allowed to flourish, brings bitterness; the end thereof turning into hate itself. Self-righteousness blinds us from hate and can even keep us from receiving the forgiveness we seek as God has promised to not forgive us if we can’t forgive others.
Whether you’ve been on either side of that story, know tonight that the same grace Jesus gave to the woman that day, he extends to us today. When we put our stones down, He will forgive us our sins. And, when others have judged us to death, because of His rich mercy and grace, the same forgiveness is extended by His hand to us too. That’s the miracle of God’s love; Jesus.