Recently we hosted a family gathering at our home, which meant several children invaded our girls’ rooms. Like any good host, our two daughters and I worked diligently the few days before our gathering to clean the house, prepare the food, straighten their rooms, and even get the outdoor spaces in spring-ready condition. We were excited for the family to arrive and the girls were anxious for their many cousins to come and play. It was going to be a beautiful day and a great time shared with family.
Until the guests began to move the toys about and make a bit of a mess. Then panic set it.
At separate times, each of our daughters came to me. “Mom, they’re wrecking my room! I had my dollhouse just how I wanted it and now it’s a total mess!” I pulled them aside and reminded them: “People are more important than property. It’s okay if they play and move some things around. We will recover the house after they all leave.”
People are more important than property.
Before you think too harshly of my girls, I must make a confession: I, too, enjoy having my things in order. A confessed perfectionist, I run a tight ship and admittedly cross the line now and again of keeping the house just so-so. I’m not a fan of a messy kitchen or unmade beds. And over the course of their lifetimes, our family has worked together often, purging toys, putting personal items away, dusting the furniture.
I love to host a great gathering! I enjoy preparing for friends or family to join us for a meal, sit around to visit, play a few games at the dining room table! But I also love the clean, straightened, everything-in-its-place feel that comes after the crowd has walked out the door and I’ve “recovered the house” again. Every now and again, with a particularly rowdy crowd of guests, I give myself the mental pep talk I offered to each of my girls. “It’s okay. People are more important than property.”
The thought occurred to me as our last group of guests left and we began our routine of turning the house back around: Are we, as the Church, guilty of doing the same thing with our “guests”? We polish the church facilities, groom the grounds, make all the grand preparations, and hang out the banner, “Guests Welcomed Here”! But as soon as the guests show up and the unchurched crowd behaves “inappropriately”, we are quick to start in with the complaints. “They’re wrecking our program! We had our carpets cleaned and look at this mess! He reeks of smoke. She’s wearing that.”
Jesus dealt with many a doubtful glance as He mingled with the sinners. While His association did not mean He engaged in the lifestyle the “sinners” were leading, Jesus had to go where they were and invite them to where He was in order to impact their lives. On countless occasions, the crowd pressed in to His seemingly perfect circle of disciples, interrupted their journey, disrupted the time of teaching, and threw off what their tradition had taught them was appropriate.
The woman caught in adultery hadn’t straightened up her act just yet. John enlightens us with the fact that the woman brought before Jesus by the Pharisees had been caught in adultery, in the very act! We can’t be too hard on the Pharisees in that they were questioning, perhaps from their hardened hearts and self-righteous traditions, what should be done with her. Their religious laws and long-held traditions had taught them this woman should be stoned to death. But Jesus’s response blew all of that out of the water.
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7)
When each of them began to take survey in their own heart of hearts, they soon realized they had their own issues to compartmentalize and surrender. They, too, needed forgiveness. They, too, had once been unlearned or ignorant of God’s Word. At one time, each Pharisaical follower found themselves, and were being discovered even then, in need of grace.
But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus did not send her back into that condemnable lifestyle. In fact, He offered her an opportunity to turn things around.
- Jesus offered this sinner the benefit of the doubt. The very phrase “benefit of the doubt” means you’re willing to believe what someone says when hard evidence is hard to come by. ♦ While we don’t know exactly what Jesus was writing in the ground that day (John 8:6-8), waiting for her accusers to bring forth some viable evidence of her sin, He was letting her know, “You may be guilty. You very well may be a sinner. But I am willing to believe you desire to change.”
- Jesus made it clear that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23, John 8:7). It is quite possible that Jesus began to write down in the dirt the many sins of the accusers who drug this woman out of her sinful act. Whatever He wrote that day reminded each and every one of them that their own sin deprived them of their right to shame her. I’m convinced that if those same men had brought her forward to Jesus in a humble manner, confessing their own sin, and seeking some help for her, all present would have walked away, better for it. But they came in with self-righteousness, puffed up in their own minds and hearts, and trampling her life beneath their pride.
- Jesus offered this woman hope. “‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.'” (John 8:10-11) That day was a marked day for this sinful woman! She was found in her sin, made aware of her sin, convicted in her heart, and then given a way out. “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” He let her know: Friend, this isn’t the way to live! Let me show you a better way.
Is your life a gracious welcome to the sinner ‘guest’? What about your church? Does the tidy-ness of the body at large and the facility where you meet make room for someone to make themselves at home while they unravel their sinful way of life? May we as the Body of Christ purpose to take on His Method of Operation. Let us be reminded of the value of people over “property” once again.
Dropping the stone,