I was reading this morning the incredible Biblical account found in John chapter 8 of a woman caught in adultery who was brought to Jesus for judgment. The religious leaders who caught her wanted to stone her, in accordance with the law of Moses.
But Jesus stooped and wrote with his finger in the dust. Then he challenged them, “Let’s have the man who never had a sinful desire throw the first stone at her.” He stooped and wrote again, and one by one the men walked away.
Jesus asked, “Dear woman, where are your accusers?” Two witnesses were needed to make an accusation valid.
She answered, “I see no one, Lord.”
“Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin” (John 8:1-11 Passion Translation).
What a beautiful story! But the religious leaders weren’t happy with how this story ended. They came back to talk more with Jesus, and by the end of chapter 8 they were picking up their stones again, this time to kill Jesus!
Religion is always looking to judge someone, and there are some in any religion who feel they serve God by passing death sentences on others. Whether it’s the Jews of Jesus’ day, or the Muslim fundamentalists who still want to execute any woman caught in adultery, or we American Christians who hear of a politician’s or celebrity’s immorality and “crucify” them with our words, we are quick to condemn, quick to punish.
The natural result of such judgmentalism is that we can move from judging the adulterous woman to judging the sinless Christ simply because we need someone to judge, someone to punish. Before you know it we’re judging the pastor of our neighbor church, our peace-loving Muslim co-worker, or the man walking the street who is a different color than we are.
Both Christians and Muslims agree that Jesus is coming back to be the Judge of the Final Day. Let’s take a look at how Jesus judges. At the conclusion of the story above, Jesus makes this comment in verse 12: “I am light to the world and those who embrace me will experience life-giving light, and they will never walk in darkness.”
Those who shine light to expose, punish and kill are not judging like Jesus. True peacemakers shine a light that is life-giving. This light welcomes others out of sin and condemnation into freedom.
We should all shudder to be judged by the self-appointed watchdogs of our own religions. But Jesus’ judgments are not fearful. His perfect love for us drives out our fear. His light drives out our darkness. Everything he does is life-giving.
May we become true peacemakers who do the same.