Accused or Accuser?

Old or young. Man or woman. Saved or unsaved. We all make mistakes, We all sin. We all do dumb things, we all have things in our life that don’t work.

We’re broken to one degree or another.

I know sometimes it might not seem like it. We all know people who seem to have it all together. They say the right things, do the right things, and their clothes are never messy. Their lives are in order, they say the right things. Well, guess what. They’re flawed.

Then there’s the folks whose imperfection is easy to spot. You know, they’re the ones that are on the fringes. They’re the ones with muddled lives, broken relationships, dim eyes. Broken people like this often have lives bursting with chaos and disorder. You know… those people.

And, just in case you’re thinking you don’t know any messy people, and you have no idea where to look, let me help you my friends. The best place to find broken people is by looking in the mirror.

Maybe you don’t see yourself as broken. Or, maybe you believe you were at one time, but no longer are. Well, to that I say, “stay with me.” The fact is we all are. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian or not. Salvation does not give us perfection this side of heaven. Verses like 1 John 2:1, and James 3:2 tell us so.

It unlikely we can’t change this fact. It’s who we are. That’s what Paul says in Romans (7: 22-23). And I don’t know about you, but if Paul couldn’t reign himself into a state of perfection, I’m fairly sure I’m not going to either.

I believe the reason it’s hard to believe we all have dark and cracked places is most of us would prefer the less acceptable things remain hidden from the outside world. And why wouldn’t we? Who wants their messes paraded in the open for all to see?

But what would you do if some terrible hidden secret was laid open for everyone to see?

That’s how it was for the woman in John 8: 1 – 11. The story goes like this. Jesus is doing what he often does – teaching a crowd of people. Jesus takes a seat in the middle of this crowd and begins talking to them. But in the middle of whatever he is teaching, a couple of religious leaders drag a woman into the crowd accusing her of adultery and demanding justice be served.

We aren’t told, but I wonder what the reaction of the crowd is.

Likely they were made up of women, men, and children. Did the women look at her in judgment, or was it pity? Did mother’s hide their kid’s eyes so they didn’t see the half-naked women? What about the men in the crowd. Did they look away? Did they recognize the woman? Did they call her a whore?

The verses say they not only asked him, they demanded that he answer. This is a dramatic moment! Everyone had to wonder what Jesus would do. This wasn’t some innocent mis-step to punish. The crime was not just morally unacceptable, the penalty was death by stoning. Jesus was being asked to declare the death penalty.

The moment is ripe with tension, but Jesus doesn’t answer them right away. No, instead he chooses to write something in the dust on the ground. So, we have a woman – probably in some form of undress, a group of religious leaders angry and demanding answers, a crowd of shocked onlookers… and Jesus is scribbling in the dirt.

And, what exactly was he writing? Was it something profound or just notes on the sermon he just preached? We don’t actually know, but I’m convinced it was not random and probably quite purposeful. I imagine he was writing out a list for the woman’s accusers.

It’s possible he was writing out a list of their sins. Can you imagine? Everything ugly thing they ever did but though no one knew, Jesus is now clearly listing right in front of you and the world.

They came to expose this woman’s sin and Jesus makes a list of theirs.

Whatever he wrote, it must have convicted them. When he says, “Okay, whoever is without sin cast the first stone,” they all walk away. Jesus keeps writing until every last one of the accusers’ leaves.

I imagine them head down, shameful and defeated – attitudes a far cry from when we first meet them. But, of course, I have not proof. I do think they were forced to face their own mess and realized they were guilty too.

The story ends with Jesus and the woman. Face to face he asks her “did none of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” was her answer. Probably softly I imagine. I don’t think she wants any more attention at this point. She likely was pretty mortified at being exposed. Was she still shaking – thinking she would be killed for her crime? Maybe. I would have been.

But Jesus is so gentle with her. He tells her he doesn’t condemn her either and instructs her to go and not do what she was doing.

The care and kindness in his words must have been unexpected. I would suppose a woman in her line of work – especially at that time – would not have experience much kindness. I imagine it changed her forever. Grace and mercy have that affect on us.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to the women. I’ve had the worst exposed, and I’ll tell you it nearly destroyed me. But, in the middle of my mess, I experienced the grace and mercy the woman in our story had. It changed me then, and continues to change me today.

But, if I’m honest, I’ve been the accuser too – at least I have in my mind. I’ve looked at others and pointed my finger. I’ve said, “God, you should do something.” Yikes. I’ve been the men in this story.

We don’t know what happened to them. Did they repent? Maybe. The thing is though, God’s grace was available to them just like it was for the woman.

And you? It’s easy to sympathize with the woman – her brokenness laid out for everyone to gawk at. But, can you see yourself in the faultfinder’s shoes sometimes too?

It takes guts to look honestly inside ourselves. We’ve been accused and we’ve been the accusers. We all need a savior. The women did, but so did the men who demanded her death.

Matthew 7:1 – 5 says if we judge others we’ll also be judged. Seems fitting for this story too.

We’re all broken. We’re messy, but, there is hope. Philippians 1:6 tells us that God not only began a good work in us, he’s going continue this perfecting until he returns! There will always be stuff to clean up. We’re arrogant and judgmental, but there’s hope.

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