The woman caught in the act of adultery (evidently by herself, since the man was let go, scot-free) was face to face with her accusers who brought her before Jesus so they could have some basis to condemn him while condemning the woman. Of course we know the rest of the story. Jesus stooped down, wrote something on the sand, stood up, and told them, “Whoever is without sin, let them cast the first stone.” One by one, beginning with the oldest, they dropped their stones (we imagine) and left. In the end it was her and Jesus. Jesus then asked her if anyone had condemned her. She replied, no one. Jesus then told her to go and sin no more.
Some Christians I know are the most gracious, loving people in the world. They take sin seriously and try to adhere to the standard set in scripture, specifically as seen in the fulfillment Jesus did bring. And yet they don’t condemn others, not even those who are deserving. I am thankful for the good number of sisters and brothers like that in Jesus I know.
Sadly there are a few others that seem to take sport almost in looking down on others, judging others, and noting how they fall short. These are the people who evidently must be holding themselves up to that same high standard and must be miserable in the process. Actually according to Jesus and this story, they are not. As soon as Jesus gently points a finger back at them, they have to acknowledge that they too are sinners, so that they are not in the place to condemn anyone, since they too stand condemned.
This is A, B, C basic stuff. But sometimes we need to be reminded. Sometimes we need to look at ourselves in the mirror before we mark someone else off as condemned. Actually we ought to know we are all condemned. And as Michael Card reminds us in a song which was inspired by this story (“Forgiving Eyes”), Jesus took that condemnation on himself.
We need to practice extending mercy to others, just as we would hope to be shown the same. We need to be acutely aware of the beam in our own eye before we attempt to take the speck of sawdust out of our brother or sister’s eye.
This doesn’t mean we don’t take sin seriously and just see life as a free for all. Not at all. But we take it seriously beginning with ourselves and our focus must become not just on ourselves, but on the one who does not condemn us, who indeed took that condemnation on himself at the cross, Jesus.
Those who persist in condemning others may not really be aware of their own sin, or they may even excuse or justify it, and they may not really have experienced the forgiveness the Savior brings. Scary thought. We go on forgiven in and through Jesus, and only as such can we leave behind our life of sin and point others to the same.