Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. John 8:4
Growing up, I was never taught that I was better than anyone else because of my faith, but still, I felt that way. In high school, I didn’t drink or smoke, so I felt pretty good about my life choices. I had my own failures and struggles, but they were just little sins. Alcoholics, in comparison, were really bad people. I honestly thought Christians weren’t capable of being addicts. As it turns out, I had a lot to learn.
In college once, a group of us descended from our Christian campus to provide the worship service for a local homeless mission. Looking down at those poor souls, I remained blind to the growing failures in my own life. Just because I’d failed differently (less severely in my mind), I felt I was better than them.
This was the nature of the Pharisees in today’s passage. In the story, they dragged a woman caught in adultery before Jesus – note that the guilty man was conspicuously absent. They asked Jesus if they should stone her according to their Old Testament Law. They knew Christ was merciful and they wanted to see if they could catch him defying the Law of Moses.
Jesus’ response was simple. Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her (John 8:7). They’d picked out one particular sin they found offensive and used it for their own purposes, while ignoring the failures of their own lives. Once Jesus exposed this, they had no choice but to walk away humiliated.
Christian condescension is a continual temptation for many of us. I wish I could say that my addiction taught me to remain humble, but now that I’ve been sober a few years, it’s easy to once again be filled with pride. I’ve recovered. Why can’t you? What’s wrong with you?
We all fail in some way daily, often many times a day. We have our reasons though that we use to justify our own failures. When others sin differently than we do, we become condescending. I may be a judgmental Christian jerk, but at least I’m not an adulterer or addict, right? If we claim to follow Christ though, we must be honest about our own failures and we must embrace his grace and mercy, not just for ourselves, but for those around us as well.