I've been sickened by the happenings in our community in the past couple of weeks. Self-serving actions have led to families being ripped apart, immeasurable suffering (physical and emotional), and torturous guilt for loved ones involved. We find ourselves on edge, as if we personally have been affected.
"What were they thinking?" "Didn't they stop and consider the consequences?" "I don't know what I'd do if that happened to one of my relatives, but it wouldn't be pretty."
And the more we talk, the more irate we become. "Someone needs to pay."
Jesus would tell us to be cautious in our judgment. Remember the story of the adulterous woman, half dressed, standing before Jesus after being dragged there by the Pharisees?
The religious leaders' hearts were as stony as the rocks they held in their hands as they smugly questioned the fate of this sinner, itching to practice their pitching skills to her death. Can't you just see her -- trembling, humiliated, guilty, as the pious Pharisees smirked and jeered, preparing to strike?
Jesus stood in silence, looking at neither this woman nor the men; instead, he gazed at the ground. We aren't told how long it took before He stooped to write with his fingers something in the dirt; all we know is that the Pharisees would soon feel more exposed than the woman they had accused. Jesus finally arose and delivered the verdict:
"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
He knelt again and continued his writing.
I read biblical passages like that and wonder where I would have fit into that scene. It's easy to picture myself rooting for the woman, celebrating her acquittal, perhaps even shooting a few dirty looks (or even a pebble or two) at the mob of men.
But what if the man with whom she was having this affair were my husband? Would I be capable of doing what Jesus required, or would I have been one with the Pharisees, demanding justice and punishment?
Scripture tells us the crowd dropped their rocks and walked away, the older men ahead of the younger, leaving only Jesus and the adulterous woman to ponder what had just happened. And then He spoke directly to her -- she was forgiven.
"Go your way; from now on sin no more."
Don't you wonder what happened to the accusers? Something tells me they didn't show up the next day, flowers in hand, asking for the woman's forgiveness. Instead, I imagine there was a pot luck dinner that night where tongues were flapping, new plans for vengeance unfolding.
"I can't wait until I have a chance to snub her at the market place."
"All I know is ... my children will never associate with hers."
"We'll make her life a living hell ... she WILL pay."
"And so will Jesus."
We're all going to be there, you know. Standing in front of Jesus while our "accuser" reminds Him of all we have done to deserve eternal punishment.
In my case, the list will be endless ... scroll after scroll filled with ways I have messed up. But then Jesus will step forward, and with nail-scarred hands, He will take the list and announce after each one, "Paid in full."
He should know. After all, it was His very blood that covered the cost. It's a message we should never forget -- for others and for ourselves.