Fired by love's urgent longings, I am his rocketman.
Rules

Rules

Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman to him who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in their midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such.  What do you say about her?’  This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.  Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again.'” (John 8:2-11)

woman-caught-in-adultery1According to the law, the woman caught in adultery deserved to be stoned to death.  This is what Moses commanded.  Death by stoning was the prescribed punishment for the offense.  The sentencing guidelines were in place and no one would have considered the expected punishment unjust.  There was precedent for it; other women committing the same offense received the same punishment. In fact, one could reasonably argue that it would be unjust not to stone this woman in light of all the other women who had been stoned before her.  How could it be fair to treat this woman differently.  So you have to wonder what Jesus was thinking? How could he simply ignore the longstanding rules that required the woman to be stoned?

And what about those women caught in adultery after the woman in this story?  Certainly there have been others after this woman who were stoned to death?  It doesn’t seem fair that she should go freely on her way when others suffered violent deaths for the same offense.  What was Jesus thinking?  Surely he had to be concerned about breaking precedent or, more importantly, creating new precedent?  What about all the people, who would hear about the woman in this story; likely some would decide that it’s no big deal to commit adultery and choose to become lawless?

Do you think Jesus was worried about them?  Do you think he stopped to consider the ramifications of the way he handled this situation?

What was it that enabled Jesus to lay aside precedent and not be concerned with those who might take advantage of  God’s mercy?  It was love.  Jesus had a higher gear than the rest of us.  He was not limited by norms, precedents, fairness to those who may have been treated differently before. or those who may be treated differently afterward.  He was compelled by love and it empowered him to see things differently; love enabled him to see possibilities that others couldn’t see.

It’s easy for us to listen to this story and see it from Jesus’ point of view.  From a distance we can identify with what he did and why he did it.  We can even imagine ourselves doing the same thing.  But what do we do when faced with situations where we have to make decisions about people?  Do we alway follow the rules?  Do we consider fairness to others in similar positions.  Are we bound by what others may think or overly concerned about creating bad precedent going forward?  Do you think Jesus  was ever concerned about fairness, or what others may think, or creating bad precedents?

We have rules and we need rules, but who rules us?  Do rules reign in our hearts or does Jesus reign in our hearts?  Sometimes we choose rules over love; we make the decisions because rules require us to make those decisions.  But there are times and circumstances when love requires more of us.  No doubt we feel safe making decisions consistent with rules.  After all who can fuss at us for following precedent; how can anyone criticize us for doing “what we are supposed to do”?  We may even feel like we are acting nobly or with high purpose when uphold the rules?  However, we need to be careful because love frequently demands that we take risks; love often asks us to do things that make us uncomfortable.

Small minded people are able to follow rules very well but it takes a large heart to follow the demands of love.  The scribes and Pharisees knew exactly what to do with the woman caught in adultery.  But we are not scribes and Pharisees and love requires more from us; love inspires more in us.  Jesus calls us to follow him, not rules.

 

 

Get posts by email

Get updates delivered straight to your inbox!

Comments

  1. Dennis McBride says:

    I see this all the time. But I also see love all the time as well. what compels us to follow the rules and what compels us to show mercy is often as mysterious in our own hearts as it is to the people who observe us. There are seminal moments in each of our lives and one of them for me had to do with other people’s children. As a young teacher I couldn’t understand why parents were so defensive of and merciful toward their children when I would bring them some fault of the child. Most of the time I probably didn’t take the time to listen and see the love that the parents had for the child, but I would instead only hear the defense even in the face of irrefutable proof of some wrongdoing. Almost immediately after my first daughter was born I caught myself being so defensive of her even as a young baby that I felt like I would kill the person who was joking about something in relation to her. I immediately “understood”. I finally had someone that I loved unconditionally, what a glimpse into Jesus’ heart that was. At the same time, as I have matured as a father and a teacher I have seen that there are many times that the rules must be followed in order for those that we love to mature as well. When in doubt love should conquer all. I have read this particular gospel many times in my life and shared about it with students in my homeroom classes, and it is one of my favorites to share about because of the love and forgiveness and the visuals that the story contains. I agree that we are to conquer fear with love, and in holding someone to the consequences of the rules to prove a point or make ourselves seem noble we are often not conquering anything. When Jesus said to love one another as I have loved you this gospel should always be remembered. The consequences of our sin and “rule breaking” will be there irregardless often times of forgiveness, and so the love that we show maybe the only thing left to change a person’s heart. Here is to loving as Jesus loved!

  2. Dan Almeter says:

    Mark,

    Sounds like you have been discipling under Pope Francis.

Speak Your Mind

*