“As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” – John 8:3-11.
The story in John chapter 8 is one of my favorite stories. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. They said, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” The Pharisees believed they had trapped Jesus because Israel was under the rule of the Romans. The Jewish law required that a woman caught in adultery was to be stoned to death. (Leviticus 20:10) But under Roman law a person could only be put to death by the judge. So if Jesus answered that the woman was to be stoned He would have been breaking the Roman law. But if He answered to let the woman go, then He would not have been upholding the Jewish law.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” When Jesus straightened up they were all gone.
This story is an effective backdrop to judging others. When all those who were condemning her, Jesus told the woman to “Go and sin no more.” People left Jesus and the woman because they all had done something wrong in their life. And while it is easy to judge someone else, it is more difficult to judge ourselves. Because when we judge others, we are comparing ourselves to them: Our behavior and actions, our reputation, our tucked away stuff. Like the Pharisees, we are trying to convince ourselves that we are better than others, and we actually think we deserve more. We are saying that we are all that and then some. But we are not all that, just as the people who were condemning the woman all those years ago found out.
God is the only one who can judge, because He is the only one who is perfect, He is the only one who can judge without any evil intentions or hidden agendas. God doesn’t love one person more than another. He doesn’t love me more than he loves you. And He doesn’t love us more than the person we have judged and written off.
So, just like Jesus told the religious people (you without sin throw the first stone), don’t judge people because they don’t have what you have. Or they look or act differently, or they do things that you don’t approve of. Rather, show them the love of God by not condemning them, but loving them as God loves you.
- When you catch people in their brokenness, do you look more like Jesus or the religious leaders?
- What if you were the person “caught with your hand in the cookie jar” – when your sin was exposed for others to see. How would you feel? How would you want other Christians to handle it?
- Romans 8:1 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” What does that verse mean in the area of judging others?