“Let the one among you who is without sin,
be the first to throw a stone at her.” – John 8:7
In the world in which we live, the above Bible verse has come to mean, to many people, it is not Christ-like to criticize wrongdoing. Is that interpretation accurate though? Is that really how Christ lived and taught? Is it true?
It is interesting how the truth is often twisted and how, throughout history, the truth, and speakers of the truth, have often been frowned upon. In the Gospel passage of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), Jesus, champion of truth, honesty and integrity, is put in a position where the authorities (the scribes and Pharisees) are looking for a reason to “take him down” so to speak. They see Jesus as a threat. If the truth becomes known…if their manipulation and ways of holding down and misleading the faithful become known, the faithful will no longer support them and their authority will fade away. This possibility makes them focus even more on trying to suppress or manipulate the truth. They are not open to anything other than efforts to hold onto their kingdom, no matter how that might affect the faithful.
While the scribes and Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus into going against Mosaic law, so that they can arrest him and eventually do away with him, Jesus turns the tables on them. Jesus knows that their motivation is self-serving; they are not concerned about the spiritual well-being of the woman they have brought before Jesus. They are using her, and Mosaic law, to try to get what they want. They are not pointing to the law for the purpose of which the law was made and certainly not for the well-being of the woman or the larger community.
So how does Jesus respond? He calls the scribes and Pharisees attention to the fact that they are not without sin; their hearts are not pure, and they slither away. The woman is left standing alone with Jesus.
While Jesus does not condemn the woman, he does hold her accountable and tells her not to sin any more.
Oftentimes, we can confuse holding someone accountable or to the truth as being judgmental. However, we need to be able to judge situations and, at times, we are called to speak the truth, even if that means it may be in conflict with another or requires holding another accountable.
In a scripture passage prior to the passage about the woman caught in adultery, Jesus says, “Whoever speaks on his own seeks his own glory, but whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him is truthful, and there is no wrong in him. Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You are possessed! Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered and said to them, “I performed one work and all of you are amazed because of it. Moses gave you circumcision—not that it came from Moses but rather from the patriarchs—and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man can receive circumcision on a Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I made a whole person well on a Sabbath? Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly.” (John 7:18-24)
If we come back to the woman caught in adultery, we see that Jesus doesn’t condemn her to death, but he does make a judgment. He tells her to sin no more. He tells her to stop.
When we look at our own lives, like with everything else, we need to follow Jesus’ example. We shouldn’t throw stones, but we should judge justly. When we see people doing wrong, we are called to speak the truth and to stand up for what is just. That is a big part of carrying one’s own cross…of being Christian.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” – John 8:1-11