I feel like I am being urged by some higher power to spend the morning in some kind of retreat. I am guessing that, as I am in some kind of contact with the Spirit of God that it is this particular power that is urging me to spend time in Him!! 🙂
So I begin reflecting on the passage in John 8:2-11 about the woman “caught in the very act of adultery”. A thought…the one/s who caught her in the very act of adultery were also guilty under the law. If you wittness this ‘act’ you were guilty too!
In my recent thoughts of violence and non-violence and nuclear weapons and war I pondered the meaning to us in this passage. The brilliant theologian John Dear assisted me in these ponderings.
Jesus was about disarmament. By drawing on the ground after their calls for the death pentalty and revenge for the woman breaking the law, Jesus shifted the focus of their attention from the sin of the woman to the ground. Did he write their sins on the ground as some have suggested? I don’t know, and I am not conviced it is important. What is important, is the fact that he compassinatley drew their focus away from the naked, humiliated woman to the dirt…from which we were created…nothing like literally ‘getting back to the basics’!
If he had responded with rage, ‘righteous’ as it may have been, either towards the men of towards the woman, he would have created a scene that was not on par with his lesson. He ‘disarmed’ the scene.
Then he says “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone”. Wooooo – he condemns the death penalty…who ever has the right to condemn anyone to death based on this single statement? George Bush? A judge? An executioner? A soldier?
Then after all have left the scene Jesus engages in dialogue with the remaining guilty party. He never says she is not guilty, she did wrong, but condemnation and death don’t follow the guilty verdict. Condemnation and death are taken from her…He…Jesus, He takes them on Himself!
We must follow this, we must stop placing others in the centre of our judgement circle for our righteous death penalties, even those who are guilty.
John Dear says that “Let him who is without sin be the first to cast a stone” could be translated in many ways today.
Let the one without sin be the first to pull the switch on the electric chair, the gallows, the noose, the first to raise a machete and hack a tribal enemy to death, the first to pull the trigger and kill one’s religious enemy or one’s assailant or someone who has caused pain. Let the one who is without sin be the first to abort an unborn child. Let the one who is without sin be the first to push the button and fire a missile, to drop a nuclear bomb.
We are all sinners, not one has the right to any of the above.
We have stood in complicity with all the above things, murder, war, nuclear destruction, the environment’s degredation, the genocide of starvation, abortions, and oppression. We are guilty of adultery and murder in our hearts.
We must begin to practice mercy and non-violence toward one another, thus we enter into the mercy of God. As we refuse to condemn others God refuses top condemn us.
“Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:36-38)
John Dear’s thought come from his book Jesus The Rebel. (2000)
Jesus the Rebel explores the life of Jesus from the perspective of active nonviolence, and includes stories from John Dear’s own journey to oppose war and violence and promote Jesus’ way of peace and nonviolence. With over thirty chapters, it reflects on the peacemaking side of Jesus’ life, in a variety of stories, from his long fast in the desert and his first public speaking event, to the raising of Lazarus, the last supper, his execution and resurrection.
John will be in Perth for a special one day semminar on March 6th next year. Contact me for more details.
On a side note on the issue of Iraq war, read this article.