Passing On Grace to a Black and White World
When Paul was preaching to the Philippians he told them that the Lord wanted them to be moderate in their actions. Here’s what he said. “Let your moderation be known to everyone.” (Philippians 4:5) Gods’ people were to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19) And above all Jesus said they were to love each other. “..all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
It wasn’t easy to be a Christian back then. The religious leaders of that time – the Pharisees and the Scribes - were zealous about keeping all of the laws of Moses. Jesus told them that He did not come to do away with the laws of the Old Testament but to “fulfill” them. (Matthew 5:17) But they didn’t understand. For these legalistic men, every action was either black or white, right or wrong, pure or defiled. These puritanical priests cut no slack for the disinfranchised, had no compassion for the sinner, and gave no second chances.
If the Pharisees caught a Jewish person breaking one of the many Old Testament laws they would have that person severely punished. Whippings and stoning, chains and imprisonment were common place. These up tight leaders crucified Jesus because He admitted that He was the Son of God and the Savior. The grace Jesus extended to sinners threatened the power that these religious leaders held over the Jewish people. It upset their little world of black and white. And they tried to put Jesus’ followers to death too. The good news of forgiveness and salvation being spread by those first Christians was a threat to their hierarchy.
In John 8:3-11 we read the story of the scribes and Pharisees bringing a woman to Jesus who had been caught in adultery. They wanted to trick Jesus so they asked Him: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. Now Moses, in the law, commands us to stone such a person. But what do You say?” (John 8:4-5) The scribes and Pharisees were probably holding stones in their hands waiting to kill the frightened woman. Of course the married man that they caught her having sex with was not there. The religious leaders must have let him go and only charged the woman with this crime. As the religious leaders dragged the shamed woman over to Jesus she was probably shaking with fear.
So how would Jesus respond? Would Jesus agree with the laws of Moses and authorize these men of God to stone the woman to death? Or would He act as if the sin of adultery wasn’t serious and let the woman off? The Pharisees and scribes had gotten Him in a corner and they knew it! Jesus could either choose the right decision and help them stone her or He could choose the wrong decision and not stand up for the sanctity of marriage! These religious leaders saw their world in black and white – right and wrong. There was no middle ground in their minds – no grey areas (or grace areas)!
“But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest. And Jesus was left alone with the woman standing there. (John 8:6b-9)
What did Jesus write in the dust? Did He write down sins that these men had committed? Scripture says that these pious men were convicted by Jesus! They were reminded that they too were sinners like the woman.
“When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more.’” ( John 8: 10-11) Can you imagine how relieved the woman must have felt at that time? Jesus had saved her from being stoned by the men of God. Scripture says that Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn us, but to save us. (John 3:17)
And then Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and to the woman and explained: “I am the light of the world; anyone who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Was Jesus telling them that He is the Light of the world and had come to change things? Make things different? Turn their darkness into light? He could clean up the darkness in that black and white world?
Jesus didn’t approve of what the woman had done. He told the woman to go and sin no more. (John 8:11) He (by His death) would remove the woman’s sin (darkness) if she would follow Him. But whatever He wrote in the dirt convicted the Pharisees that they were sinners too and should have compassion on other sinners.
Things don’t seem to have changed much today from back then! We still have religious leaders today putting women down! Judgmental church folk pointing fingers at the alien! And so called “Christians” picking up stones and murdering the sinner! If we come to Jesus today with stones in our hands and hatred in our hearts, what message would He stoop and write in the dirt for us? Would He go along with us in our black and white world when His grace has turned everything upside down? Would He not have the same message for us that He had for the Pharisees? That because He bestows His grace onto us, we can pass that grace on in our black and white world!
Questions: What do you think?
1) Do you agree or disagree that things don’t seem to have changed today? That many in the church today are judgmental? Circling the disenfranchised with stones in their hands?
2) What message would Jesus write in the dirt for us today when we are circling the sinner with stones in our hands?
3) How did Jesus “fulfill” the laws of the Old Testament?
4) How has Jesus turned your darkness into light?
5) How can we pass the grace Jesus has bestowed onto us to other people?