Summary: A challenge to turn from gossip when something happens in the church family and rather turn to love for support.
“Oh man, Mary Jo’s got the cooties.” “Yeah, I heard she got ‘em from messing around with Billy Bob.” “Ain’t that just the most awful thing you ever heard, I don’t think we should be her friend anymore.” Sounds rather much like grade school doesn’t it? But, that is not necessarily the case. When was the last time you heard, “Have you heard about Mary Jo?” “Why, yes, I heard she and that preacher from over at 1st Big Steeple church were seen having lunch together at Big Al’s.” “Well, last time I talked with her, she said her and Billy Bob were having marriage trouble.” “Isn’t it such a disgrace how some people can just flaunt their sin out in public like that?”
Friends, let’s all be serious about this. Many of us have said the same things, or maybe we were in the position of Mary Jo. I want us to especially focus this morning on Mary Jo. It is so easy to inflict hurt upon someone with our words and actions, whether intentionally or not. I am sure this talk got back to Mary Jo and when she realized it was from those who were supposed to be her friends it must have hurt her even more deeply. My question today is, why would we feel the necessity to be so judgmental toward another sister or brother in Christ?
“Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do You say?” Is this not exactly what we are saying when we talk about Mary Jo, Billy Bob, and the preacher? An interesting point from this particular incident in scripture is that the man is not mentioned. Unless I totally flunked Biology worse that I remember, it takes at least three to commit adultery; a married couple and an outside source. According to “the law of Moses,” “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.” It is my belief the man was purposely left out, because these scribes and Pharisees were selectively gossiping about another person; and they were also busy trying to entrap Jesus.
“Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground.” This is the position we should take when the gossip mill begins to grind out its sludge. Instead of joining in the accusations and slanderous chatter about this woman, Jesus simply ignored them. We do not know what Jesus wrote on the ground. It could have been simply a meaningless drawing, but it very likely would have been a relevant word from the Holy Scriptures, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Or maybe, “The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” Jesus knew the intent of their hearts; He knew they were trying to trick Him. But rather than get involved with their distraction, He was trying to teach these scribes and Pharisees another important lesson. Recognize, Jesus did not challenge their interpretation of the Law of Moses; He knew what this woman had done was wrong. No, He confronted their selective gossip, their desire to make an example of this woman.
Jesus was trying to squelch their resolve to be judge for this woman; He was also attempting to diffuse their insistence to test Him. But, like so many people, they did not understand Jesus and continued with their wayward attempts; “…they kept on questioning Him.” It was at this point where Jesus finally challenged their persistent badgering. “…He straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again He bent down and wrote on the ground.” Notice, even with their continual haranguing, Jesus never let them draw Him into the gossip, nor did he get into an argument with them. He simply provided them with an alternative. What was this second thing he wrote on the ground? Maybe, “Those who guard their mouths preserve their lives; those who open wide their lips come to ruin.” At this point they knew they had beaten at their own game so they began departing until Jesus was left alone with the woman.
Paul tells us, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” “Mary Jo’s got cooties…they were seen having lunch together…Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” Childish talk from childish minds. These are the kinds of things which can hurt people; such malicious gossip can, and will, destroy relationships. These relationships also include church family relationships. I am sure many of us personally know someone who has left a church because of something someone said, or supposedly said. Yet for some reason this destructive talk still continues. By repeating gossip we are passing judgment upon our sisters and brothers.