This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday: write for five minutes on a one-word prompt. The prompt today is danger.”
Last night in our church small group we were looking at Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. If you’re not familiar with the story, you can click on the reference to read it, but to summarise: The Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus. She has been caught in adultery and the law says she should be stoned to death. They ask Jesus what they should do, trying to trick him into saying something they can use against him.
Let’s pause there for a second. On reading the account last night, I was particularly struck by the heartlessness of the Pharisees. How appalling to publicly shame this woman just to try to trap Jesus! One of the others in our group admitted that she felt a little sorry for the Pharisees as they had tried so hard to keep the law but Jesus had come and turned everything on its head. However, they were getting no sympathy from me! There is no excuse for the cruelty they showed to the woman. (And where was the man anyway?)
As our discussions continued though, it did get me thinking.
Jesus’ solution to this tricky problem is ingenious. As one of our group said, “how could you not come away from this encounter thinking that Jesus is a legend?” (in the sense of amazing and admirable, not fictitious!)
He agrees that the law says to stone the woman but challenges them, “Let the one who has never sinned pick up the first stone.” (John 8:7 NLT)
And he writes in the dust with his finger. We pondered for a while what he could have been writing in the dust and then one of our group pointed out a verse from the Old Testament:
“LORD, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.” (Jeremiah 17:13 NIV)
Could he have been writing the names of the Pharisees in the dust?
Whatever he wrote, the message hits home. Starting with the oldest, the woman’s accusers lay down their stones and leave. Only Jesus is left, the only one who is without sin, who truly has the right to condemn the woman, but he chooses not to, instead urging her to “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11 NLT)
We had some great discussion, and it got me thinking about the danger of pride. The Pharisees were so careful to keep the law that they were horrified by the sin of this woman – something they would never do. I highly value compassion, so I am horrified by the way they treated the woman – something I would never do. But are we really so different? By judging the Pharisees, am I not showing the same kind of pride they showed in judging the woman?
The truth is, none of us is without sin. None of us has the right to cast the first stone. Each of us deserves to have our names written in the dust, and only by the grace of God can we have our names written in heaven instead (Luke 10:20).
I still have a lot to reflect on, in general and in a specific situation. How do you challenge sin without pride? How do you deal with it without resorting to stone-throwing? The danger of pride is all too real, but I think remembering that none of us is without sin is a good starting point.