“How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?” Obviously the woman caught in the act of adultery had no choice. She had to plead guilty. It was a clear-cut case. She deserved to die and her accusers were ready to see blood. Blood would have been spilt if Jesus had not gotten involved.
The local clergy thought that they could discredit Jesus by having him uphold the law, which was clear in the case of adultery and if He didn’t, then they could accuse Him of condoning such scandalous behavior. Much to their surprise, Jesus talked to them about their behavior—about their sin. Never in a million years did the Pharisees and scribes think that they were going to be put on trial. They were clean. They kept the law. They were the example of morality. When Jesus said, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”, He ruined everything. No one could throw any stones because they all had sins. Of course they all went away, beginning with the older ones because the older we get, the longer the tail we drag. We can almost picture ourselves in the middle of the scene. According to what is happening in our life, sometimes we are the woman caught in adultery. Sometimes we are one of the Pharisees or Scribes ready to cast a stone. Perhaps we are like Jesus who stops the violence by reminding others that we are all sinners. Haven’t we quoted the words when we see a fight between our family, coworkers, friends: and they are picking on a person, destroying the person’s reputation, finding fault in every thing they do. “Let the one among you who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her.”—one of the most quoted passages of the Bible—because we can all identify.
Notice the amount of energy we spend in pointing fingers at others. “That person has no right to receive Holy Communion. I know who they are, I know the sins they’ve committed. How dare they get in line.” With similar statements the walls go up. We create a group that we consider worthy and a group that we consider unworthy. Any religion has the potential to become exclusive rather than inclusive. “We’re in and you’re out.” Such people are really not Christians because a Christian does not build walls but builds bridges. That’s exactly what Jesus did for the woman who was guilty—He made a bridge for her to step back into forgiveness.
Remember that the first person that she needed to forgive was herself. Imagine the embarrassment, the humiliation, the people laughing at her. But then they all left and no one could accuse her. When Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you”—she was free. Or was she? Was she really free? At times we are our own worse judges. We have trouble believing that no one condemns us, not even God, especially God. “Too good to be true! Must be a catch. Sooner or later I will have to pay for my sins.” That’s a popular reaction when leaving the confessional. Forgiveness does not depend on whether or not we deserve to be forgiven. Forgiveness depends on whether or not we are willing to accept a gift. God forgives us for free. Yet, we spend sleepless nights punishing ourselves for sins that can never be undone, only forgiven. Time to get on with life, just like the woman caught in adultery. She was given another chance. Jesus gives us chances over and over. Our Lord never gets tired of forgiving us. We get tired of ourselves, of each other, but not God. God knows who we are, every one of our sins is known to Him and He still chooses to love us.
Fact is that sin is what unites us—like our belly button—we all have one. Oh happy fault—that because of sin—Christ came to save us. In Him we find forgiveness, never condemnation.