“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” – John 8:7
The above words were those spoken by Jesus over a broken woman, a sinner who had been caught in the act of adultery. She had been brought before Jesus by religious leaders in an attempt to trap Him.
Does He extend forgiveness or does He hold firm to the line of truth?
Interestingly enough, this same conversation isn’t foreign to our day. Followers of Christ can easily find themselves facing the same conundrum.
When discussions arise around Christians talking about sin, we’re often reminded of Jesus’ words above: “for those of us without sin, cast the first stone.” So it seems we’re left to sit idly by and are never, ever to discuss iniquity.
Of course it doesn’t help that there are believers in Jesus who make it a priority to point out other’s sin. They apparently feel they have nothing better to do other than keep an eye on everyone. “Sin police” as I like to call them. Unfortunately, their gaze is so fixed on sin, that forgiveness and grace do not seem to be known to them. On any level.
Typically, as a response to the above people, the pendulum swings the other way with an over emphasis on love and discussion about sin is all but silent. A picture of a very “loving” Jesus-never-offended-anyone is painted using excerpts from Scripture like John 8:7 above.
Within these type of conversations, another verse that’s often brought up is Matthew 7:1:
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
Everyone likes this Jesus. Who wouldn’t? He seems like a really nice guy.
However, these two passages, taken by themselves, are only one side of Jesus.
The story from John 8 of the woman that was caught in adultery doesn’t just end with Jesus shooing away her accusers and then not condemning her Himself. He does forgive her but then challenges her to “Go and sin no more (vs. 11).”
So it’s not that Jesus was all loosey-goosey with His handling of her iniquity. Rather, He dealt with it in a way that was foreign to the human religious mind, while being true to who He was and keeping in line with truth.
Same goes for the “don’t judge” line from Matthew 7.
Pretty much in the same breath as saying don’t judge, Jesus turns around and calls people hypocrites and pigs (vs. 5-6).
Sounds quite judgey to me.
Is that a contradiction? No. It’s just the other side of the same coin.
We’ve taken a two-sided Jesus and sliced off the side we don’t like. And all of us, at some point, have been guilty of this bisection of Jesus.
Scott Sauls says it this way:
“Truth without grace isn’t really true. Rather, it is aggression disguised as discernment. And grace without truth isn’t really gracious. Rather, it is codependency disguised as love.”
If we’re honest, we would acknowledge the fact that we, the Church, have done a poor job at not dropping our stones. We’ve wounded so many all in the name of truth and being right. We also seem to think that if we don’t harp on sin, that it will jump on us and affect us (I’m picturing a zombie apocalypse).
But as a response to a mishandling of truth, everyone else is crying out for a loving, cotton candy Jesus, void of any judgment or truth (which is the opposite extreme).
We can’t continue this way.
We need grace and we need truth. Not just one extreme or the other.
While I can’t say I’ve arrived at figuring out this beautiful dichotomy, I can say I believe it’s possible because that’s who Jesus is. And if that’s who He is, it must be possible to know and demonstrate both sides of Him. He was, and is, the most gracious man. Yet, He stood for truth regardless of the cost.
I want both sides of Jesus. I need both sides of Jesus.
Sometimes I don’t like one side (depending if I’m the one at fault or not). But if I want Jesus, I have to take all of him… and I have to be OK with who He really (fully) is.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” – John 1:17