Summary: We are poor witnesses when we fail to model God's love, mercy, and grace.
In the book of John, Jesus often uses words and phrases that have more than one meaning to make a point. For example, when he discusses being “born again” with Nicodemus, he uses a word which means both “again” and “from above”. In today’s scripture lesson, the entire story has two meanings. On one hand, it’s a story about God’s mercy. And it’s in this context that many of us think of the story – Jesus displayed God’s mercy by saving the adulteress from execution and forgiving her sin.
But on the other hand, this passage is an indictment of the scribes’ and Pharisees’ lack of mercy. And it’s that meaning that we’ll concentrate on today.
Take a look at these recent headlines:
"Woman Sentenced to Stoning Death for Adultery"
"30 Gays Arrested in Dubai"
It’s clear that not much has changed in some parts of the Middle East since Jesus’ time. How blessed we modern Christians are to be able to say that we don’t treat people cruelly for their sins in the name of religion.
[Image of Christian protestors waving "God Hates Fags" signs]
Or do we?
Could it be that nothing much has changed in the West either?
Could it be that WE are also unmerciful?
Could this passage from John, then, be an indictment of OUR lack of mercy?
You better believe it is.
Let’s play a quick game.
[Image shows what is described in the following paragraph]
So what we have in this picture is a young woman walking into a woman’s clinic known to perform abortions. Behind her are two pro-choice volunteers making sure she is able to enter and exit safely. Behind them is a woman from a Christian right-to-life group. Inside the building, where you can’t see, are doctors and nurses who provide birth control and terminate pregnancies.
Alright… you all know the game Where’s Waldo, right? Where you have to search the picture for the guy in the red and white striped hat, only everything in the whole picture is covered in red and white stripes?
OK so this game is something like that – it’s called Where’s the Sinner.
Where’s the sinner in this picture? Can you find him or her? Here’s a hint – the sinner’s sin is totally obvious in the photo.
Or maybe that doesn’t help much, because everyone in this photo is covered in sin?
So where’s the sinner in this picture?
Here, and here, and here, and here, and inside where you can’t see, and across the street, and down the block, and in the next state over.
Every single one of ‘em a sinner.
Every single one of US…a sinner.
We’ve all been taught at some point that God doesn’t categorize sins into big and little, better and worse. (If you didn’t learn that yet, congratulations, you just learned it now, and one of our Elders will be happy to discuss it with you after the service!) But the world…us…we can’t seem to help it. Lying to spare someone’s feelings is probably a sin but it’s ok. Lying to keep yourself out of trouble definitely a sin, still not too horrible. Now murder? That’s maybe the #1 worst sin to a lot of people. In our minds. The way people see things.
But that’s not the way that God sees things.
God sees every sin you can possibly imagine, from stealing cable to stealing a life, as equally disgusting.
And God sees all of us equally crawling in the stuff. Filthy with sin.
And He washes us all equally clean.
[Image shows Christian protestors waving signs that say "You are going to Hell!" and "No Forgiveness"]
At what point did we decide we could tell God which sins he can and cannot forgive? To whom he can and cannot show mercy? We can’t – he’s already decided. He forgives us all. We ALL get his mercy.
And, if we can’t decide what sins God will and won’t forgive, we can’t decide which sins WE will forgive either. We MUST forgive them all.
Sometimes a lawyer will put a witness on the stand to speak for someone’s character. Maybe a friend or family member of someone on trial for a crime, to show the jury what a great, normal guy he is. They choose people who they’re pretty sure will say good things. But if someone they expect to be a friend of the defendant gets up on that witness stand and says “Sure I know the defendant! He stole my lawnmower and punched me in the eye!”, it can blow the whole thing out of the water.
We, my friends, are supposed to be character witnesses for God. We are supposed to show people here on earth how AWESOME our God is.
What do these images this tell them about our God? Where is the mercy Jesus showed to the adulteress in this?