“Jesus never asks us to stand in the place of judgement. That seat is for him alone.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – January 16, 2021
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 (NRSV)
After a year like 2020, it seems as though everyone is looking for someone, or something, to blame. Republicans. Democrats. Progressive ideology. Unemployment. Stagnant wages. Corporate greed. The stimulus package. The lack of a stimulus package. On and on the list could go. Yet rarely, if ever, do we begin with the only person and problem that we are actually able to influence for good: ourselves.
On this point, I think of the oft-told story of The Times asking well-known authors to respond to the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?” It is said this memorable line was submitted in response: “Dear Sir, I am. Yours, G.K. Chesterton.” Chesterton, in typical fashion, bluntly said what we so deeply struggle to accept, namely that we are flawed and broken human beings and each have a personal responsibility for the brokenness in the world around us. Does that personal brokenness find expression in shared systems of injustice? Of course. And yet, responsibility always begins with the individual.
In light of this, our Lord reminds us today in John 8 that we should be far more cautious and hesitant to judge or cast blame over someone else. While it is always easier to see the faults in others, the invitation before us is to choose to withhold judgement, turning that energy towards our own hearts and actions. As Ephrem the Syrian prayed, “Yes, Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters.”
Withholding judgement does not mean that we are blind to the shortcomings and sins of other people. Unquestionably, the woman in John 8 was guilty of the sins for which she was accused. Yet how quickly do we cast accusations from a place of moral superiority or assumed innocence?
Jesus never asks us to stand in the place of judgement. That seat is for him alone. May we never look at others from a place of superiority, but instead place ourselves alongside them, fellow sinners in need of forgiveness, sheep who each need to be guided and faithfully directed by a good and loving shepherd.
Father, help us to maintain proper perspective, remembering that you alone are judge and that we are called to love others unconditionally, just as you have loved us. Amen.
When have you recently thrown stones at someone else? How can you take a step towards reconciliation and restoration?
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