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The Third Way, Part 4 (of 5)

July 1, 2010

I’m still on about this thing. One more example, and probably the clearest.

John 8: The woman caught in adultery.

You know the story. Jesus is teaching in the temple and the scribes and Pharisees bring before Him a woman they caught in the act of adultery.

Imagine: The Pharisees are excited. They know they’re right on this one, the scriptures are very clear. Jesus cannot escape a simple judgment on this case, and if He refuses them justice they will have a sure accusation against Him.

The prosecution is swift and complete. “We found her in the very act,” they say. The requirement of the law was two or more witnesses and they have met it. “Now Moses, in the law, commanded …” they continue. The case is cut and dry. Adultery is one of the Big Ten (Exodus 20:14), the required number of witnesses has come forward (Deuteronomy 17:6), and the punishment is clearly articulated by Moses in the law (Leviticus 20:10).

And then they ask, “But what do You say?” It’s almost a dare.

Jesus also references the Law when He responds, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

Deuteronomy 20:7 instructs, “The hand of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people.”

The scribes and Pharisees would have recognized the reference to “be the first” to throw a stone, but Jesus doesn’t call for the witnesses. He calls for the sinless.

How can you remove a speck from your brother’s eye if you have a plank in your own eye?

How can you execute justice if you have been shown mercy?

We would say that our sin is not so great as this sin, his sin, her sin.

James would say that if you have stumbled in one point you are guilty of the whole law.

Is this woman deserving of death or not? Right or Wrong? Guilty or Innocent? Just or Unjust?

If they had dragged her outside the city and stoned her to death, would they have sinned? Would they be wrong? Would her death have been unjust? Nope. If Jesus had consented to it, would He have sinned? Would His mission on earth have been compromised? No.

Is it always about Right or Wrong, Just or Unjust, Righteous or Unrighteous? I don’t think so. I think there’s a third option between True and False. It looks stupid. The world doesn’t get it. It’s hard to do. It’s not fair, and it eventually leads to a cross.

What do you think?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. bianca permalink
    July 1, 2010 10:22 pm

    *I wonder who this offends most, this answer between True and False… sinners or saints?* Saints, by virtue of the term, seem to have arrived at some tangible separation and can therefore judge those ‘being renewed’ (Come on! Get over “it” already). This throws a wrench in the mass production of disciples through classes and seminars filled simply with “Thou shall… and Thou shallt not”.
    All the while the sinner is already perplexed, justly so, by great gifts like grace, mercy, forgiveness and now rules governed by a Love too complex to fully understand. “He says this, yet He does that”… ?? How can anyone know what to do??!!
    I suppose in the end we are to get to know Him, as you are and so beautifully sharing, and lean in on the Holy Spirit… boast nothing of ourselves or our own (filthy) righteousness… and love the Lord and people like crazy.
    LOVE never fails.

    • Lex permalink
      July 2, 2010 12:58 pm

      It’s so much easier to blog about than to actually live. :)

      Of course, mass-producing disciples was never the intent, so I’d be willing to bet Jesus loves that wrench.

      The thing about this answer between True and False is that – this is Part 5 – it’s not always there. Some things are cut and dry, but when it comes to love and mercy, Jesus seems to be saying there’s always room for more.

      I don’t think Jesus’ actions are necessarily contradicting His Word. I don’t think He’s saying one thing and doing another. He never excuses sin, but He always offers forgiveness. He forgave the woman caught in adultery, but then told her to “sin no more.” In eating with sinners He was elevating mercy above personal righteousness. In “working” on the Sabbath, He was challenging their understanding of the Sabbath (and maybe of “work”), but not breaking the law of the Sabbath. In the Sermon on the Mount He was making things harder, not easing the law. The overall theme seems to be, “Do your best and love others no matter what. Strive for holiness, but not at the expense of mercy.”

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