Why are Christians so angry? Why are Christians so intolerant? These are a few of the recurring questions we received as we talked to people on the street and posed the question – What questions do you have about Christianity? Interestingly, Most of the questions seemed to center not on what Christians believe but on the way Christians behave. Which begs the question of the church — What if we lived and loved like Jesus?
Jesus and Culture
All the polls agree that respect for Jesus is at an all-time high, while respect for Jesus followers is in rapid decline. Jesus warned us that the world would not always understand us (John 15:18; 1 John 3:13), so some of this comes with remaining faithful to God. However, Jesus also told us that we would be known by our love (John 13:34-35; 15:12; 1 John 3:11).
Although we never want to compromise our values or core beliefs, it also seems a good idea to take a hard look at our behavior and ask ourselves a single, governing questions – What If? What if we lived and loved like Jesus?
First, if we are going to live and love like Jesus, we must stop condemning people.
Jesus and Condemnation
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus …” (Rom. 8:1).
Jesus was suddenly confronted by a pernicious question: How do we relate to a hurting and sinful world? How do we stay true to our values and reach out to a world whose values are antithetical to our own?
The teachers of the Law and Pharisees (i.e., the church folk) brought Jesus a woman caught in adultery and asked, “What do we do with her? Moses said to stone her. What do you say, Jesus?” (John 8:1-11).
It’s hard to go against Moses. It’s hard to go against the established “church rules.”
At this point John informs us that they (i.e., the church folk) didn’t care about this woman or about adultery — they were looking for a way to trap Jesus so that they could charge him with something and arrest him.
Then Jesus stooped down and started to write something on the ground. What did he write? John doesn’t tell us. From that day to this, people have been speculating.
Some speculate he may have been writing a scripture passage from the Old Testament. After all, the church folk had just quoted Leviticus 20:20 — “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.”
Perhaps Jesus offered a counter quote. Perhaps from the preamble to Leviticus 20:20 — Leviticus 19:15 — “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly” (emphasis mine).
Did they judge her fairly? If she was caught in the act, where’s the man? They let the man go and brought only the woman. Leviticus 20:20 was clear that both the man and woman were to be punished.
They were not concerned with Leviticus 20:20 or with adultery — they simply wanted a way to get Jesus. Their motives were not spiritual, but political.
When we condemn others our motives are never pure. What is our motivation in judging others – condemning them because of their particular sin? Over and against the sins we commit?
Our condemnation of others is never objective.
What do you think Jesus was writing on the ground? Some speculate that he wrote a list of the most common sins of the day.
Ignoring their question, Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground. They persisted, asking again. He stood, revealing the list he had been writing. Their own sins were staring them in the face as Jesus finally responded to their question — Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.
They leave one by one, starting with the eldest – wisdom was associated with age. Jesus’ message was crystal clear:
Our condemnation of others is always hypocritical.
Jesus asked the woman, “Where are your accusers? Is there no one left to condemn you?”
She said, “No one. They’re all gone.”
Jesus said, “Then neither do I condemn you.”
The ONE person who was qualified to condemn her refuses to do so.
Our condemnation of others preempts God’s grace.
Many will point out at this point – Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.”
Yes – and that’s always good advice. However, notice the order. First, he said, “I don’t condemn you – you are forgiven – you are set free to go live your life.” He sets her free FIRST.
“Neither do I condemn you,” is not a dependent clause. It is not in any way connected to “Go and sin no more.” In other words, Jesus forgave her unconditionally. “Go and sin no more” was simply great advice, after the fact.
Our condemnation is no match for God’s grace.
TWO BIG TAKEAWAYS:
There are two things we should learn from the way Jesus confronted a sinful and hurting world.
1. Don’t be ashamed to stay true to your convictions, your beliefs, your faith.
Jesus told the woman that the Pharisees were right – adultery is a sin. But they were wrong in wanting to condemn her for it.
They were right about their convictions – wrong about why and how they were expressing those convictions.
2. Don’t let yourself become a dragon in order to fight a dragon.
The ends never justify the means — never!
You cannot use hatred and anger and violence to make people think the way you think — believe the way you believe — change the way you want them to change.
You cannot don the wardrobe of evil in order to fight evil. You cannot mimic the tongue of the Evil One in order to fight the Evil One.
Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36, KJV).
What does it profit a man if he wins a culture war but loses his Christianity?
What does it profit a man if he wins the argument but loses a friend (who might have accepted Jesus)?
We have a much bigger mission than simply changing our culture. Cultures change — they always have and always will. There’s nothing you can do about that.
Should you try to influence your culture? Yes. Absolutely. We are salt and light (Matt. 5:13). We should always seek to point people to the light!
However, we must also keep in mind that this earth is not our home and our ultimate goal is not to transform the earth — it is to transform lives. Our goal is not to save the culture — it is to save the souls in the culture.
Someday, Jesus will make everything new, including the earth (Rev. 21:5). Until then, let us be faithful to Jesus’ singular command — “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).