Many could care less about Biblical teaching when it comes to judging morality. They are quick to ridicule and mock anything related to the Bible – quickly pointing out what they may feel is the hypocrisies in various teachings and their application in our lives. Right Wire Report, it should be noted, is not attempting religious indoctrination. This article is offered as analysis, and perhaps a limited lesson in critical thinking that nothing can be truly understood without accurate context applied. For those in present-day America, this exercise is relevant and should be applied when making sense of all the current political and civil unrest. However, I do find it curious this is one passage from the Bible even Atheists are quick to point out:
John 8:7: “Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Why is this a favorite passage of many? First, as a way of reminder and a little background, this was a story of a woman caught in adultery, and leaders of the time were challenging Jesus to judge and condemn her death as cited in the Old Testament. Jesus did not condemn the woman. Ah hah! You see, Jesus did not judge, and neither should you. It also may mean adultery, and maybe other sins are not so bad after all. People can do as they please – your God said so. You or anyone else should NOT judge me for what I do. My liberty to do as I want should be the paramount principle.
But back to this Biblical justification. Is this teaching really saying no one should judge others for what they do? And is Jesus giving a pass to adultery and other sins, to do as one pleases?
As always, one should look at the entire context of the story before we pluck out a phrase we like to suit ourselves. The point of the New Testament gospels was the idea of repentance and forgiveness of past sins toward the good news (gospel) of salvation via Christ. In Christian tradition, John’s gospel has always been referred to as the fourth gospel, meaning it was composed after the other three. Polycarp, a second-century Christian martyr who knew John personally, and that John had written the book during the apostle’s time serving the church in Ephesus. These factors suggest that John wrote the book between AD 85 and AD 95. The gospels speak a lot to the forgiveness for things we have done and made it clear that receiving forgiveness was dependent on them forgiving others. For example, Matthew 6:9-13, “God, forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
The Pharisees and the Sadducees were two groups along with the supporters who were fearful of Jesus at that time, and the fact he was obtaining converts to his New Testament teachings regarding the Mosaic law, of which they were trying to preserve. They were trying to trap Jesus to stop his ministry, have him arrested, and ultimately be killed. So the context is that the story of the woman adulteress was a pawn in their game.
In light of this context, Jesus was asked to condemn the adulteress woman to death, thereby going against his teaching of repentance and forgiveness. If Jesus let the woman off, then it as if Jesus would be condoning adultery and not obeying the law. A seemingly paradoxical trap. Prior to Jesus’ comment, he began to write something in the sand (John 8:6). The presumption here is that Jesus began to reveal the sins of the very people that we’re accusing the adulteress woman. People that make accusations of others when they themselves have done the same or even worse make it obviously problematic and hypocritical.
We have all done wrong things in our past – but this is the past. But what about today or the future? After Jesus had exposed the woman’s accusers, no one stood in the accusation of the adulteress woman. Picking up the story, Jesus asks who stood in accusation of the woman at John 8:11: She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” The part “from now on sin no more” is read right over, and the comprehension is lost. So yes, there is repentance and forgiveness of the past, but in the future, we are admonished to not do it again. Jesus is not saying it’s fine to commit adultery – or live and let live with no consequences or care. The key point here is to judge the “act” and not the “personage,” when there is true repentance. Let God be the final arbiter in any moral judgments of a person.
In the time of Jesus, the issues were the draconian strict understanding and application of the law – almost to a fault. It was taking little into account of repentance and forgiveness. It was perhaps needed in the early history of man. Today the pendulum has swung completely in the other direction – licentiousness, which is to say, lacking legal or moral restraints. The world is now watching the United States begin to implode from what was in the beginning “peaceful protests,” that has now transformed into violent riots, looting, and lawlessness that has spread nationwide. Like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, are certain politically backed and funded groups removing all context, and distorting past historical facts, and suppressing present-day statistics, as a way to divide and use certain Americans as pawns on a chessboard for a specific agenda? Jesus warns us that in the time of the end we would see nations begin to buckle under stress and turmoil that would actually produce mass confusion, chaos, and despair. As stated in an end-time prophesy in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.”
Nothing in this article should be interpreted as a call for government action to implement morality police. Morality begins in the heart, and can only be managed by our own free will. But nuance does matter. Are we to judge? Yes, but Jesus admonishes John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” “Correct judgment” is a very broad subject, well beyond this article, and for you to ponder. It will require a nuanced understanding and a little common sense with discernment. Common sense, something today can be more valuable than gold.
As always, please give your thoughts and further comments below.