DO NOT JUDGE LEST YE BE JUDGED.
Those words ring loud don’t they. And they are true words. Found in Matthew 7.
And it is the cry of the culture: Don’t Judge me!
It is our own cry: Don’t judge me!
We are a culture on defense. We don’t like being put on the spot. We don’t like to be examined.
I don’t like it any more than you do. Seriously, it’s no fun to have someone (even a well meaning someone) pick at my faults or worse, point out my sin.
And so we cry, DON’T JUDGE!
And we command, DON’T JUDGE!
And we preach grace and we claim grace. But it really begs the question: In a culture changing so rapidly, in a world so desperately trying to hang on and so quick to let go of what has always been known as good or bad. How are we to respond? How do we love like Jesus loved? How do we follow the perfect God-man, Jesus? How do we stand for right and not compromise? Yet, (and this brings us back to the question) how do we really love like Jesus?
And, grace. What about grace? Does it mean we only love? But what about righteousness? If God is righteous, if He is Holy, if the salvation plan is to make any sense at all, we have to admit we sin, don’t we? We have to judge and confront, don’t we?
It feels like a trap. Like the world wants to catch us in some great hypocrisy. Even within our own hearts we fear it.
What to do, what to do?
John 8:1-11 says:
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
You know, I am so grateful that Jesus came to earth. That we have his very words. Can I get an, Amen?!
Jesus walked this dusty, dirt, grime and sin laden earth long before us. He truly experienced the culture war and dance that takes place every day. In this passage we see how he navigated the trap. How he walked the fine line.
First we see that He was just minding his own business. Just doing his thing. He was doing his job. Teaching. He wasn’t asking for a fight. He didn’t place himself in position as judge. He was just sitting there talking to people, helping them learn.
It was those other guys. The Pharisees and those “Teachers of the Law.”
Well, these dudes had taken upon themselves to make sure that everyone knew what was kosher and what wasn’t. They had elevated themselves to a place where everyone could hear them. And they were loud enough you really didn’t dare argue. And here was this Jesus, just a carpenters son (as far as they knew) who was getting a little more attention than them. He was preaching more powerfully and yet more quietly than them. And they had had about enough of it.
So, it was time to do something. It was time to expose this Jesus for the fraud that (they supposed) he was.
And so they brought him a woman. Who up to this point had been living her own life. Just trying to find her place, to be fulfilled, to be happy. Whatever the cost. She may or may not have known or thought she was in the wrong. But, in any case I think she was just trying to fill that empty spot we all have and be happy.
Well, apparently she was found out. And apparently, it was still not cool to have an affair back then. Even if it made her happy.
So, here she is, facing the death penalty for her attempt at fulfillment. And Jesus is supposed to be the judge.
What did he do? He agrees she can be stoned, BUT, only the persons who had never done anything wrong can throw the first rock. And then, He starts writing in the dirt!
Can you imagine the silence. I doubt a single person was breathing. And that girl? She probably just shut her eyes waiting for that first pelt. Because, after all, everyone had made it pretty clear she was in the wrong. Perhaps even she resigned herself to her fate knowing she was in the wrong too.
So, Jesus was writing in the dirt. Waiting.
Now, what he was writing we don’t know. But some scholars have supposed he was writing The Ten Commandments, others the sins of those in the crowed. Whatever it was, He seemed to make his point. One by one, each one of them left.
Essentially what Jesus reminded them is that unless we ourselves are sinless, we have no business joining the noisy, angry mob and convicting someone else of their sin.
Why? Because it would do nothing to save the soul of the one.
It’s not about the mob, it’s about the one! It’s about you and me and every precious human being. It’s about winning the heart of one.
That girl was just trying to be fulfilled. She was searching and coming up empty. Coming up condemned. And everyone agreed she was in the wrong. Everyone was loud and willing to shame her and I’ll bet she was just a bit on the defense about the whole thing. Sure she was still scared for her life, but that group of people airing her faults in the temple court, they sure weren’t drawing her to repentance. They just basically were saying, you are a screw up. you don’t even deserve to live!
And Jesus reminded them that not one of them was perfect either, and that’s where the ‘Do Not Judge‘ is needed.
But! When everyone was gone and it was just him and her. He didn’t walk away from her. He didn’t leave her in her sin. He challenged her to change her life. Not only did he save her life, he offered her the opportunity of a New Life.
He still does that. That woman had an encounter with Jesus, the savior of the world. And he didn’t judge her and shame her in front of the crowed. No, first he saved her, and then he offered her a new life. A free life, a fulfilled life.
What a sweet gift.