It’s tempting to hear a sermon and apply it to someone else. It’s easy to read devotions about seven deadly sins and decide who should reflect on that one. The danger in listening for what someone else should hear is that we miss the truth we most need.
If that’s ever been your experience, has John got a story for you.
In addition to ranking which sins are worst, the scribes and Pharisees take it upon themselves to update everyone else’s sinfulness scorecards. They’re hoping to find something to put on Jesus’. They bring a woman caught in adultery to the temple and place her center stage. Other writers might describe the shame and terror on her face, but John has another sight in mind. He wants us to picture the people surrounding her, the ones who lust for scandal, violence, and moral superiority. Their conversation with Jesus fills these verses. Twice John draws the reader’s attention to whatever Jesus is writing on the ground with his finger. Jesus says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). We scan for volunteers and watch the crowd disperse. Only then do we focus on the woman, imagining her expression as she learns that she’s escaped death and received the grace of a new life.
Whenever we think that the sins that don’t attract us are worse than the ones that do, we need to read John’s story again. When the church gives the impression that some sins can never be forgiven, we need to see that this is not the Christian message. It’s not true to the Gospel or to God’s grace. It may be tempting to think that John’s story is about someone else’s problem. The truth is, he wrote it about our own.
What truth in John’s story do you need to hear for yourself?
God, the extent of your forgiveness astounds us. Help us leave the circle of condemnation, see our own need for your grace, and walk away free to love and be loved. Amen.