Religion leads to death; Jesus leads to life.
We are all sinners doing sinful things, and yet God calls us to be Holy. He calls us to remain unstained by the world around us. Dealing with the sin in our lives is incredibly important, but what about the sins of those around us? How would Jesus want us to treat those who fall short of his standards?
As followers of Jesus, we are called to rescue people. To a throw down a line and pull people out of the pit, and yet Christians often stand on the edge of the pit, pointing a finger, condemning people for the hole they're in. Why is this?
There are glaring examples of extreme Christian judgmentalism and condemnation (Westboro Baptist, etc.). It’s easy to distance ourselves from these extreme cases but subtle judgmentalism is far more widespread and much harder to detect.
Jesus was merciful and gentle and calls us to be the same.
Jesus’ extravagant mercy is on full display in the way he treats the women caught in adultery in John 8. A woman is caught doing the terrible thing; this is not in dispute - she was guilty. The Pharisees bring this woman before Jesus in the temple courts. Imagine the humiliation of having your sins paraded in public.
The Pharisees not only planned on killing the women but using her in a ploy to trap Jesus. They assumed they had Jesus cornered. From the very beginning of Jesus public ministry, he had been breaking all the cultural and religious rules. He ate with sinners, spoke with prostitutes, and rebuked the arrogance and self-righteousness of the religious elite. From day one the religious establishment hated Jesus.
This was their latest attempt to get rid of him.
Jesus' mercy was renowned, but it was clear that Jesus also knew the Mosaic law - so what would he choose? Forgive the woman and reject the law, or uphold the law and allow her to die.
Jesus isn’t impressed and responds brilliantly. He famously invites those without sin to “cast the first stone.” Only God is without sin; the religious elite wouldn’t dare compare themselves to God in this way, and so they leave.
The Pharisees dragged this woman into the public, they exposed her and intended on shaming her in front of the whole town. Jesus, by contrast, covers her shame and drives away her accusers. But He doesn’t ignore her sin. After this incredible display of mercy, he says “now go and sin no more”. The story ends there. We are never told how the women respond. I have to imagine that after this radical encounter with Jesus, this woman was never the same.
This remarkable story leaves us with no doubt about how we are to treat the shortcomings of those around us.
Religion leads to death; Jesus leads to life. Religion is man made and self-seeking, Jesus breaks downs down walls. He levels the playing field. With Jesus, there are no religious elite. We are all sinners in need of a savior, and like Him we are called to show mercy.