Courage has always been celebrated. But there’s a lot of confusion concerning what we consider courageous in our warped society. But guess what…our society has been warped for eons. According to Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Want proof?
What is happening now, is the same thing that happened over 2000 years ago. You can read all about it in the 8th chapter of John. One woman made some pretty bad choices and found herself in the courtyard of a temple, about to be killed. People were gathered around with rocks, ready to hurl them at her until she lay lifeless.
At the time, this was perfectly legal. The law stated that any woman caught in adultery should be stoned to death. But Jesus came to bring another take on the situation. It wasn’t that He was going against the law. Adultery is wrong. It’s a sin. Jesus said, “I did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” Sin is wrong and should be punished. But Jesus, out of love, compassion, and obedience to His father, stepped in to take the punishment for her. He may not have taken the pelting of stones that day, but He would take the lashes for it later.
He showed by example how to bring unity among people, even if the only unity that day occurred between Him and a prostitute. He showed us how.
People were gathered. They were probably tearing her apart with ridicule and shame. Hurtful words were spewed out. That disgusted look in their eyes, and heavy rocks in their hands.
But Jesus stopped them—not with a battle of wits, or harsh words, or public condemnation. He stopped them by revealing Truth.
“Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.”
This concept eludes most of us. We want to judge sin on a scale. Gluttony, anger, worry—that’s something we can live with. Homosexuality, adultery, murder—that’s a different story! But sin is sin no matter how you slice it. And Jesus hung on the cross for the time I gorged myself at the all-you-can-eat Mexican buffet just as much as he did for the rapist and the killer.
When Jesus said those words, he placed everyone in that courtyard to be stoned. The man who yelled at his wife this morning. The woman who bought the shoes she couldn’t afford. The boy who cheated on his algebra homework. The girl who gossiped about the new kid at school. We’re all huddled together in that courtyard. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory—that perfect place of holiness that we’ve longed for ever since our own actions tossed us out of Eden.
But then Jesus does the impossible.
Being without sin, He was the only person who has any legal right to cast judgment. But He shows love. He takes the punishment for sin He didn’t even commit. God is righteous; and His judgment is perfect. Sin cannot be overlooked or covered up. It has to be dealt with. But instead of pouring out that judgment on her; Jesus says, “Daddy, pour it out on me.” It wasn’t the nails that kept Him on the cross. It was His love. His love for that woman. His love for that man. For that boy and girl. For me. For you.
It didn’t take any courage to commit adultery. It didn’t take any courage to drop a stone and move on. It took courage to linger. Jesus lingered. When a hush fell on the courtyard that day, the woman, realizing she may live to see another day, looks up into the face of Jesus. I can only imagine what she saw in those eyes—not disgust, but pure, overwhelming love.
Jesus said, “Where are your accusers? Did even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
Jesus replied, “Neither do I. Now go, and sin no more.”
Jesus wasn’t lying when He said He didn’t accuse her. He wasn’t overlooking the sin, either. He could not accuse her because that would render His sacrifice on the cross as powerless. He knew that He would pay that price; and if He cast any judgment, then His death would not be enough to cover her sin. But it was more than enough. His death took care of her sin, my sin, and the sin of the world.
The reason he said to go and sin no more is not to pressure her into righteous living, but empower her to become righteous! That’s what Jesus does. When He becomes Lord of your life, the pressure is off. The path to holiness is paved with grace, not condemnation. And His love breaks the bondage of sin. It’s not work. It’s freedom. For the first time in her life, she was face to face with true mercy. And she was changed forever because of it.
And we can be that change today. If Jesus didn’t condemn, what makes us think we have the right to? Instead of condemnation, let’s try compassion. The most courageous act of all isn’t ridding your life of sin, but ridding your heart of judgment.
If we want to see change in the world, then put down your stone. But don’t be so quick to walk away. Stay awhile in the courtyard. Linger. Get to know that woman and get to know yourself. Realize that we are all fallen and it is only through the saving grace of Jesus that we have been restored. Not restored to cast judgment, but restored to show love. That’s true courage. So, I guess the true Courage Award goes to whomever is ready to humble themselves enough to receive it.
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