A Stone on My Desk

When flawed and fallible human beings work together, we need to extend compassion to one another.  Compassion can be defined as recognition of one’s suffering and then take action to help.  Here is Jesus’ teaching recorded in the gospel book of John 8: 2-11.

At dawn, he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.  They made her stand before the group and said to 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?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.   

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?” 

“No one, sir,” she said. 

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.  “Go now and leave your life of sin.” 

First, there was no question about the occurrence of the condemned action.  This woman was caught in the very act.  Second, the law of Moses commanded to stone such a woman. The punishment was clear.  Nevertheless, Jesus did not tell the people what to do.  He bent down and doodled on the ground in silence, leaving them to ponder the situation themselves.  When they pressed for an answer, Jesus said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Jesus challenged them to examine themselves and make their own decision.  One by one, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees left the scene.

In the same way, Jesus challenges us to be compassionate to others.  We need to look deeper, to search for the value and worth of every person, despite what they have done.  Jesus did not condemn the woman but asked her to leave her life of sin behind.

Placing a stone on my desk is a good reminder.  Before I am tempted to condemn someone else, it is necessary to conduct a self-examination.

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