When I hear verbal stone-throwers while listening to the media, I feel distressed. Yet, if I am honest, when I am under fire, I—like the rest of humanity—have a tendency to condemn others. My desire is that I would increasingly possess the character of Jesus Christ.
I woke up this morning, recalling the words that he spoke to a crowd of angry stone-throwers:”Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone” (John 8:7 NLT)! What a marvelous expression of truth cushioned in the gentleness of grace!
In this story, a number of religious leaders, who hated Jesus and wanted to charge him with being a law-breaker, found a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They dragged her in front of Jesus and asked him if he was going to comply with the Old Testament law which required that she be stoned.
After his response, one-by-one, all of the woman’s accusers walked away, apparently realizing that they had no right to condemn this woman. Jesus remained, but he did not condemn the woman; instead her offered her the power to change her behavior.
In this story, I found some beautiful insights on what it takes to give grace to others.
Our “right” to condemn others decreases with age.
The oldest of the woman’s accusers were the first to walk away. When I was younger,I tended to be more judgmental; I proudly assured myself that I would not error in ways that I saw some older people doing.
I now know that I am just as vulnerable as they were; I have made errors that I thought and vowed that I would never make. Assuming that someone else’s sin is worse than ours does not give us a right to condemn them. It indicates how ignorant we are of our own hearts.
All of the woman’s accusers, the young as well as the old, eventually acknowledged their failures and walked away. According to the Apostle Paul, “We all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT).
Instead of condemnation, Jesus—the only one who has the right to condemn us—offers us grace.
The fact that he did not walk away from the woman proved that he was not guilty of any sin–of any error.
According to the Gospel of John, “God did not sent his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17 NIV). The longer I live the more I realize my need of grace and the more appreciative I am for it.
Receiving grace doesn’t mean we overlook our errors, and acknowledging them gives us the power to make changes.
By telling the woman that she was not condemned, Jesus set her free to live a different life. His forgiving love and accepting grace, if she chose to receive it, would empower her to do so–
Neither by denying my failures nor by focusing on them can I overcome them; Both of these choices leave me powerless. I’ve discovered that self-condemnation can be as destructive as that which comes from the mouth of others.
It’s when we have received love that we are able to give love to others.
Likewise, it’s when we have received grace, that we are able to give grace. Whenever we lack either of these, we need to avail ourselves of the opportunity to receive them.
Jesus’ offer still stands!
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again” (John 3:16-17 in The Message).