Don't be a "Gracist"
So, what made Jesus mad? I've been processing this the last few weeks in my series “Angry Jesus.” I saw a church sign the other day. It said, “We love hurting people.” I realized as I read it that if you accent different words in the sentence, you get a different message. The truth of the matter is, I have heard so many stories over the last few weeks, and of course over 30 years of ministry, of how the church has hurt people. Ironically, that's what was going on back in Jesus' day. Today I want to focus on John 8, my favorite story. It's about a woman caught in the act of adultery. We do not know who she was, but for today, I’m calling her “Janice”.
“The religious scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” (John 8:3-5).This story has inspired a new word, "gracism." It's just as dumb as racism, but it's not about the color of a person’s skin or where they come from. It's based on the color of the sin they are guilty of. If I'm going to look down on you because of something that you've done, disregarding what I’ve done, this is what I call “gracism” Your sin is not any different than my sin. There are no different levels of sin. Lying seems worse than gluttony and murder seems worse than adultery. I get that thinking. But I have no right to stand and gloat because I think my sin is less than someone else’s sin. That makes me a “gracist”.
Here's the truth: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." A later, scripture says, "And the wages of sin is death." What does that mean? All sin is mortal - murder and adultery, gluttony and lying. Jesus grew up with a mom who felt like Janice, right? People called Jesus an illegitimate child. Mary was pregnant with Jesus out of wedlock. Whether it was her fiancé or someone else, it was against the law. And I believe that childhood experience of growing up with a mom who He knew was holy and loved by God, but who people judged and condemned, gave Him a deeper level of compassion as He dealt with the people He encountered.
This trap the Pharisees set was based on the law that says that they should stone “Janice” for her adultery. But, they knew Jesus was not going to do that, because He loved sinners. (That was one of their big problems with Him.) If He set her free, then they would have Him. He'd be breaking the law handed to Moses from God, and this would prove He was not from God. However, their trap gave opportunity for His brilliance. “Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger." We don't know what He wrote. My guess is that the reason we don't know what Jesus wrote in the dirt is because it doesn't matter. What mattered was that Jesus was creating a diversion. Janice is standing there. I don't know how she is clothed. It's not like they gave her time to get fully dressed. She's standing in the middle of all of the people, looking around, knowing that she's been caught breaking the law. All eyes were on her, until Jesus made them look down. Literally, Jesus is making them stop judging Janice, just for a minute.
"When they kept questioning him, he straightened up and he said to them, 'Let any of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.' And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground," some more. Awkward silence. "But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, until Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him." If I could give you one gift, this would be it - to be alone with Jesus. That's it - all the religion, all the other junk out of the way, alone with Jesus. What's the problem? Why hasn't that been able to happen? Because the church has been standing in judgment. The church has been standing in “gracism”, saying, "Your sin is worse than mine." It has facilitated people deciding to just walk away. I would love for each person to end up alone with Jesus. No religion, no religious people, no games… just Jesus. He doesn't care where you've been or what you've done. If you could just get alone with Him, it would change everything.
“Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Where are they? Has no one condemned you?’” Can you imagine the emotion in her response, “I don't know how this is possible, but, No one, sir.” Jesus said, “Then neither do I.” This is not the result she'd expected when she was paraded in front of everybody. "'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared.’Go now and leave your life of sin.'" Jesus is saying, "You're a woman who is loved by me and by your Father, so leave that old life and go live like a woman who is dignified and forgiven. That's how everything will change." Jesus did not dismiss Janice's sin. Jesus is saying, "Look, your old life is keeping you from your best life, and you're never going to find your best life until you understand this concept.
It’s the same for each of us. Jesus is not worrying about what we've done. He's forward-thinking. We can get better, we can start over. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT). We can't be good enough to win God's favor. And we can never be bad enough to miss God’s favor. So the pressure's off. The law has been upheld. Jesus can love Janice, Jesus can love you, and you can love Janice. He gave her the opportunity to start over, like He gives us the opportunity to start over. I couldn't leave you with a more important thought than this. We are loved, not judged, so we should love, and not judge.