Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend
“The Voice of Self-Condemnation”
1 John 3:19-24 (ESV)
By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
The story of the woman caught in adultery out of John 8, illustrates powerfully how Jesus frees us from condemnation. We are told that the religious leaders brought this woman into the temple courts, in the middle of a crowd having Bible study with Jesus, and demanded a verdict regarding her sin.
These religious leaders wanted to trap Jesus either by making him out to be an enemy of the Roman Empire or a false teacher. In the first case, no one could pass a sentence of death without knowledge of the Roman authorities. In the second case, if he simply let the woman go, he could be cast as a teacher without moral convictions and little regard for the Mosaic Law.
Imagine the humiliation, the isolation, and the fear of this woman as the weight of her sin was exposed to the church. As the passage unfolds, Jesus bent down to write on the ground. What did he write? The classic Christian commentaries suggest that Jesus wrote on the ground to remove attention from the condemned woman and to place the crowd’s focus onto himself. This was a way for Jesus to protect this woman’s dignity and personhood.
Then Jesus speaks the famous words that lead to this woman’s freedom: “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, each of these men filled with anger, drop their stones, and leave until only Jesus and the woman are left alone. In that divine moment, Jesus turns to the woman and asks, “Has no one condemned you?” In response to the woman’s answer of “No one, sir,” Jesus sets her free by stating, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” To be sure, Jesus did not minimize the serious nature of her sin, even as he forgave her. In a manner that is consistent with both grace and truth, he commanded her to leave her life of sin.
In going through this passage, it dawned on me that not many of us will fall into public condemnation, but we leave ourselves open to a much greater threat: the voice of self-condemnation. Like this woman, we have to get to a place in our relationship with Jesus, where we are free enough to say, “There is no one left to condemn me, not even myself.” The promise of forgiveness that is found in the gospel is greater than what our fickle hearts often feel. In fact, it is impossible to be freed from our patterns of sin unless we truly receive the love of Christ, and open ourselves to share that love with others. Then and only then, are we able we come to God with the confidence that is promised us through the sacrifice of Christ.
Prayer: Jesus, I pray that I would encounter you in such a powerful way that reminds me that you are greater than my heart. Help me to overcome the temptation of self-condemnation and to fight against the accusations of the enemy. May I come to realize that whomever you set free, will be free indeed!
Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 21