Lines in the Sand (12-02-21)
Bible Reading: John 8:2-11, John 3:17
At dawn Jesus appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
We love drawing lines in the sand, whether it’s for a game of football, cricket, or volleyball, or whether it’s the children trying to keep back the advancing tide. We also like to draw lines in life. If you’re on my side of the line you’re ok, but if you are on the other side of the line you’re not. We see it in American politics, we see it in British politics, we see it in the Black Lives Matter campaign, as well as on issues of gender, race, sexual orientation, abortion, euthanasia, divorce, and of course faith.
The problem with lines is that we all draw them in different places for different issues, so drawing lines is ultimately divisive. It can also lead to double standards. Take the Pharisees in the reading. They’re interpretation of the law was correct, but their application was flawed. Where was the man who was presumably also caught in adultery? Is that not double standards?
In our reading Jesus drew lines in the sand, but in doing so he said, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone”. On Jesus’ side of the line was the One without sin, on the other side was the woman, the pharisees, you and me.
Having received grace and mercy from Jesus, the woman went away without being condemned. But so did the Pharisees. When challenged by Jesus to look into their own lives, none of them was without sin, yet like the woman, they also walked away without being condemned. As we do too.
That is not to say there is no right and wrong. Jesus challenged the Pharisees about their sin, and he told the woman, "Go now and leave your life of sin." But at the heart of Jesus ministry was not law and judgement but love and grace. Are they not a better motivation for leaving a life of sin?
When Jesus drew lines in the sand it was not to divide but to restore. He came to save the world not to condemn it. Shouldn’t we do the same, and not draw our own lines in the sand?
Lord Jesus, you have shown me such grace and mercy.
May I reflect the same grace and mercy to those I meet today,
and live my life to honour you.
God of Grace, I turn my face to you, I cannot hide.