For a while, I was content to view John 8:1-11 as a commentary on (and exclusive to) sexual sin. Not on purpose; I think that’s just kind of what happened in my head. You know the story. It’s a familiar one. Jesus defends the adulteress woman, saving her life from her would be stone-throwers. And I don’t know what the impetus was for such a thought, but about two years ago I realized I could no longer buy into the idea that this passage was only applicable to adultery. Closer study of John’s Gospel only solidifies this belief of mine.
Consider that this story was most likely not part of the original manuscript, and many scholars believe it was added later. How do you determine where in John to place this story? Hard to say, but in class we noted that it is bookended by two statements pertaining to “right judgment.” The first is 7:24, where Jesus says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” The second is 8:15-16; he says, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right.” Could it be possible that Christ’s encounter with the adulteress woman serves as an illustration of Jesus exhibiting right judgment in everyday life, an example for us to emulate? If so, two questions remain: 1) how do you make a right judgment, and 2) what areas of life do we need to let this mindset envelop?
Christ lays the groundwork for how to do this in his interaction with the woman, a high measure of both grace and truth on display in his words and actions. The grace comes from his freeing statement of “neither do I condemn you” and the fact that he doesn’t pick up a rock and chunk it. At the same time, though, he admonishes her with a statement of truth, and does not slough over what she has done when he says, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Recall also that we are called in 8:15 to not “judge by human standards.” If we are to appropriately judge someone, we must first have a mindset like Christ’s (but that’s impossible, so apparently we’re not supposed to judge period). A mindset that does not dabble in condemnation is to be our attitude towards others and must affect every aspect of our life. Why every aspect? Because Christ did, and we are called to that same plateau of grace, and even though it’s impossible to achieve, it’s worth aspiring to with all our effort. It should cover every action, blanket each word, layer all thoughts, and swathe any feelings that arise within us.
And so this attitude is a lifestyle and applies to so much more than just sexual sin. Consequently, it causes many facets of life to be viewed in a new light, some for the first time. We begin to call into question current and past prejudices, stereotypes, and hard-and-fast rules from which we normally wouldn’t budge. This realization initiated a re-examining of an issue that began (and continues) to trouble me, which will be the focus of the next piece on Tuesday.
I know this post isn’t like the others in that it doesn’t provide much food for thought (although, if you are stirred to say something, by all means, say it); its purpose is more to set up Tuesday’s post, which will be longer than usual because it’s hard to fit everything needing to be said in just 500 words. I hope you will come back at that time.