John 7:53; John 8:1-11 (Revised Standard Version)
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”
Today’s Advent NT reading is for me one of the most amazing stories in the Bible. It is amazing for two reasons. Surely, this theme of Jesus – not judging others – is integral to his message for people as individuals. Imagine taking a single day and for that 24 hour period, not passing judgment in any way on any person, seen or thought about – not even critiquing or analyzing their actions or behavior. For some of us, this may be impossible because of our habits built up over years. As a teacher I have been programmed to always look for things not quite right, and how to best correct the fault – which really means being given permission to point out peoples’ flaws. But it spills over into other activities, like driving, eating at restaurants, listening to people talk, and watching the news. So practicing the art of non-judgment is very self-illuminating and humbling.
Secondly, this passage of scripture begs the question, “What sin is the more destructive sin – social or personal – and what sin do the Gospels depict Jesus spend more of his time addressing?” For many, it is all about personal salvation, and so the cultural implications of a story like this can be totally ignored. For me, the answer is social. This story has Jesus not just telling people not to judge, but also publicly rejecting their legal system’s capital punishment as a law having no moral validity! Legal violence is just as corrupting, just as antithetical to the Mind of Christ, as illegal violence. It was the polite, rule-following, law-abiding people who executed Jesus, totally legally. This is the horror of the Gospels. With that realization, how does one rightly live as a citizen in a law-based society?