When It’s OK to Condemn Other People

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This morning’s post is a bit of a confession. This morning’s reading from John 8 hurt a little bit. The chapter starts with a pretty famous story about Jesus. He’s at the Temple teaching some people when the Pharisees bring him a woman who they say has been “caught in the act of adultery.” They ask him for his interpretation of the Law that says women like this should be stoned to death. Instead of answering, he bends down to write in the dirt. (This reminds me of what my 4-year old does sometimes when he doesn’t want to answer a question. It’s a great technique!) When they press him to answer, he finally straightens up and says this well-known, often-quoted line, “Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled to read this chapter this morning because it’s very familiar. I already “know” everything that it says. This is not a new insight for me, and probably not for many other people. “I’ve got this one down, Jesus, you’re not giving me any new information this morning,’ I thought.

Then, as soon as I finished reading, I jumped on over to check out Facebook this morning and I saw something that made me really angry with someone. The details of the situation aren’t important for this post, but I was pretty livid about a post I saw having to do with a situation between people I know very well. I was pronouncing some pretty serious judgment on someone in my head and had to fight the urge to condemn them right there in front of everyone on Facebook. And then it hit me: maybe I don’t “know” this verse nearly as well as I thought. This is exactly the kind of situation Jesus was faced with at the beginning of John 8.

When is it okay for me to condemn someone? When is it okay for me to stop forgiving? When my life no longer has sin. That’s when I can stop forgiving. That’s when I can condemn.

Ouch. That one hit hard this morning.

But the good news is that when I get all my stuff together and am living a sinless life then I can stop forgiving and start judging and condemning people, right? Oh, but wait. Then there’s Jesus, the only one without sin, the one I’m supposed to try to be like. And what did he say? “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.”

The true good news is that even in my brokenness, imperfection, anger, judgmentalism, and sinfulness, the God who created everything good and who knows what true perfection looks like is willing to forgive even me.

God, thank you for your incredible gift of forgiveness even when I deserve condemnation. May I, in turn, offer that kind of forgiveness even to those who seem most worthy of my condemnation. May what I “know” in my head translate to what I live in my life.

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2 thoughts on “When It’s OK to Condemn Other People

  1. This reminds me of an incredible song on Casting Crowns’ newest CD Come to the Well called Jesus, Friend of Sinners. Selected lyrics: “We cut down people in your name, but the sword was never ours to swing”, “Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers. Let our hearts be led by mercy. Help us reach with open hearts and open doors. Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours.”