John 8 tells a story of a woman who was caught in adultery and dragged before Jesus. Knowing that the law condemned her to death, they asked Jesus for authorisation to stone her. Jesus paused, used his finger to draw in the dust while he made them wait, and then said "Whoever is without sin may cast the first stone." One by one, they left (the oldest ones left first) and Jesus told the woman that he didn't condemn her, freeing her to live, and "sin no more".
I have lots of questions about this passage. You can use them to reflect and see what God brings to your awareness.
How did they catch this woman? (Remember the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal where Kenneth Starr, the accuser, became repugnant to the public because of the sordid detail? Were these men like that?)
Why is it only the woman accused and shamed, and not the man? Where is he?
Why doesn't she get to say anything until everyone leaves? How is it they could make her just into a pawn, an object lesson?
Will she ever be known for anything else in the future, now that someone has accused her?
Did anyone watching this care about her? How well did they know her?
If I see someone being judged like that, am I just a bystander, or do I confirm her condemnation, or should I speak for her? What would that cost me?
When I hear an accusation, do I immediately gravitate to see the shadow side of someone?
Why would you bother asking Jesus what to do when the law is clear?
What would Jesus' authorising of a stoning do to his following? Would they back him?
What on earth was Jesus writing on the ground?
Why did the older ones leave first?
Was it because they were wiser and knew when they were beaten?
Was it because they had lived longer and sinned more?
Was it because they were tired of this kind of stupid point-scoring?
What could stop me looking at someone else's faults and consider my own?
What do I do when I feel guilt?
Who is worthy to punish?
Who is worthy to commit violence against another?
Who is worthy to pronounce someone else as less/sinful/outcast?
When did the men realise that their judgment was sin?
David Kessler says that "Judgment demands punishment." When we judge someone, the next logical step is that they must pay/make amends. It's easier on us to judge someone so we don't feel we have anything to do to improve the situation - we have allocated it to someone else. But are we really that righteous that we can say we haven't contributed anything to the situation?
What makes me think I'm better than someone else?
Do I care about sin?
How well do I understand my flaws?
How well do I understand my freedom and God's forgiveness?
How confident do I feel to stand before Jesus, even if it felt like the whole world accused me?
How can I offer grace and not judgment to others?
How can I help someone be unstuck and believe they can live a new way?
In our reflection time, we each held a small rock. (You might want to hold one in your prayer too.)
Am I more likely to hurl this at myself, or do I have it ready for someone else's punishment?