One of the most devastating things in the Christian walk is seeing someone fall into sin, especially a friend. It is disturbing, hurting and disappointing. Our friends are people we share the same belief and value systems with. It’s not usually cool when they don’t live up to what you have committed yourselves to or fall short of it.
So you feel all those mixed feelings of betrayal, disappointment and dishonour. You feel that probably if you were in the friend’s shoes you’d have done better than fall. You want to question the person what was going on in their mind all along. Why did they fall? Had they not seen it coming? Why did they just give in to the demands of the flesh?
This can be a trying time. On one side you feel pity for the friend and you want them to rise back to their feet. So you help them and keep them accountable. On the other hand you feel like you are better and superior to them morally. It’s tricky to balance the two.
The truth is that we are all prone to wander. Even the most devoted of Christians. We are prone to wander and to leave the God we love. We actually sin, a lot of times. Even walking in obedience is something God enables us to do. We do not achieve it by our strength and wit.
The first few verses of John 8 are quite interesting. So Jesus is at the temple teaching people and the scribes and Pharisees storm in, bringing a woman who had been caught in adultery. The Pharisees are infamous for their self-righteousness. These guys were like the moral policemen. It’s like all they did was sit and wait for the next sinner to be reported so that they would exercise the law on them. They were also notorious of parading their “righteousness”. I presume they made everyone see how sinful they were compared to them and their ability to keep the law.
So the guys came in and reported the woman to Jesus. They actually placed her in the midst (ESV version). Another version says that they made her stand before the group. (NIV version) They must have sent a chill into the woman’s nerves! These guys were what we call today “watiaji”. They were itching to condemn the woman. They quoted what the law said- that such a woman should be stoned to death. They said this to test Jesus and see whether he was in sync with them. Otherwise they were to use the scenario against Him.
Jesus bent and wrote with His finger on the ground. I wonder what Jesus was possibly writing. Then as they continued asking Jesus stood and told them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw at stone at her.” Boom! Talk of Jesus bursting their bubble!
Jesus bent again and wrote on the ground. Meanwhile the guys began to leave one by one, beginning with the older ones. May be in the same way dogs curl their tails between their hind limbs and run away when you shoo them off. Have you been in the presence of someone so smart and you were conversing and he/she said something so genius that you were astonished at your dumbness and decided to keep quiet? I think this is what they felt. And even much more. Because Jesus had shifted their focus on the woman’s sin and drawn it to themselves. They were no better! They were as sinful as the woman.
These guys were being speck doctors yet they were log patients. They were dying to remove the speck on the woman’s eye yet their eyes had logs. This must have been a very humbling moment. You know the kind of feeling Isaiah felt when he saw the Lord in Isaiah 6?
So the guys went. The woman was left standing alone in front of Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” The woman replied, “No one, Lord.” Then Jesus replied, “Neither do I condemn you, go, and from now on sin no more.” This woman must have been so grateful. She had probably thought her fate was sealed. She was going to die for committing a grievous sin. But then Jesus came through. He showed her grace.
By now you are probably mad at the scribes and Pharisees. But are you any better? How have you treated a friend who falls into sin or generally those people we term as sinners? Like Casting Crowns sing in their song ‘Jesus Friend of Sinners’, in many case we’ve swayed the sword of judgement that was never ours to sway in the first place. We cut down people in His name. The world that is on their way to Him trips over us. We are always looking around to spot the next sinner instead of looking up to Jesus. We behave as if we manufacture the standards of morality or as if we’ve been assigned the task of ensuring they are not broken.
I don’t advocate for lenience in handling matters sin by all means! Discipline measures must be taken, which scripture also commands us to do. We have to tell the truth and stand by it. But then grace and love must be exercised in equal measure. It should never leave our minds that we are not any better. An old couple used to tell us that when we witness people fall into sin we should say, “There go I save for God’s grace!”
May God help us to be gracious to our fallen brothers and sisters. To walk with them in the path of restoration. To rebuke them in love, just as He would do. May he also save us from the snare of the Pharisees, that of self-righteousness. May the awareness of our inability and shortcoming make us reliable to Him alone, and not on ourselves!