Whether you are honestly guilty or completely innocent it hurts to be the accused, especially if that accusation becomes part of your identity.
In John 8 we read about Jesus’ reaction to the accusers, which in this instance happened to be the religious leaders. What a shame! John 8 is set on the Mount of Olives as Jesus enters the temple at dawn and begins teaching. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. Now remember this is pre-Christianity and the religious leaders are still operating under the law of Moses in which it says in Deuteronomy 22 that any woman caught in adultery should be stoned. At this moment when the religious leaders rush this woman into the temple, interrupting Jesus’ teaching, they are hoping he will disobey Moses’ law so they catch him going against God’s orders. Surely he could not disobey the law of Moses’ and still be God’s son, the Messiah. Or could he? As the Pharisees and the teachers of the law banded together questioning Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (talk about a loaded question) Jesus kneels down and begins writing on the ground. Now the Bible does not tell us what exactly he wrote, but we can assume it was something convicting to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law because as he wrote and asked, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” one by one they left the scene. So many left that eventually it was only Jesus and the woman left there. And do you know what happened?
Jesus did not stone the woman even though he was without sin and could have stoned her. He didn’t tell her to pack her bags and send her on a giant guilt trip. He didn’t say, “I told you so!” There’s a million, zillion things we do to shame people when we ourselves have done just the same, but he didn’t give her any punishment.
I recently heard of an artist named Steve Rosenfield who founded the “What I be Project.” He asked his subjects to fill in the blank “I am not my ____.” It could be anything. Their answers ranged from addictions to disabilities. Each subject chose a phrase which was written on them in black marker. He brings his subjects deepest insecurities to the forefront in order to bring awareness, but beyond that, freedom, instead of imprisonment, to those who do not fit the social norm. When I first looked at his work I felt uncomfortable, uneasy. Looking at others’ insecurities brought my own to the surface, but after imagining how they might feel, recognizing myself in their stories, I feel a sense of relief and peace because we were made to receive and give mercy. Looking at his work helped me receive mercy.
Think about Jesus’ actions kneeling on the temple floor. When all had left the room and it was just the woman and Jesus here is what he said, “Then neither do I condemn you.” Is there an area where you need to receive mercy? Or someone in your life to whom you need to show mercy?
“There is no God like you. You forgive those who are guilty of sin; you don’t look at the sins of your people who are left alive. You will not stay angry forever, because you enjoy being kind. You will have mercy on us again; you will conquer our sins. You will throw away all our sins into the deepest part of the sea” -Micah 7:18-19
For more about the “What I Be” Project and Steve Rosenfield visit: http://www.whatibeproject.com/.