Friday, 22 July 2016

Neither Do I Condemn You

Here are some things that I have felt condemned by in the past. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but I've tried to make it honest:

- appearance
- weight
- singleness
- lack of talent- musical, sporting, otherwise
- battered car
- foolish decisions
- disorganisation
- losing things
- voice
- passion
- emotional intensity
- openness
- academic results
- failures in evangelism
- fearfulness
- inability to speak French
- behaviour management in classes
- results of classes
- attempts at cooking
- inability to run fast
- diet
- laziness
- moodiness
- meanness
- impurity
-the darkest places I have gone for refuge instead of to Jesus
- whole host of other habits and sin that are unworthy of even a mention

I mean, there are more- and if you know me you may well be thinking, "what you should REALLY be ashamed of is Habit X or Heart Output Y"; our blind spots are where the biggest problems lie! But these are all things that I have genuinely, over the years, felt condemned by.

And as each of these items have brought their condemnations, Jesus has spoken.

I've given the full list, because some of them are not categorical sins worthy of condemnation, some of them were huge burdens for me that Jesus has begun to lift, some of them are a mixture of sinfulness and something else (for example something like weight is more complex- greed and turning to food instead of Jesus for comfort is sinfulness, yes, but feeling condemned by a healthy weight because society says you need a thigh gap is something else; the behaviour of my pupils may be because of my laziness or foolishness, but there's a chance that their own sinful natures also contribute to the occasional chaotic lesson!)... but some of them are out and out sins: they make me worthy of condemnation.

And this is the position of the woman in John 8. She is brought to Jesus having been caught committing adultery. She has been found in sin. The teachers of the law bring her to Jesus knowing she is worthy of death, absolutely confident of their verdict.

And yet Jesus says, "he who is without sin, cast the first stone."

And when everyone walks away, he says, "neither do I condemn you."

They all walk away, because they know their own guilt. Gradually, one by one, they know they do not have the authority to condemn- and the only one who is left, the only one with the authority to "cast the first stone" according to his own declaration, because of his total integrity and spotless sinlessness,  is Jesus himself.

In the courtroom of Jesus, the one with the highest authority to condemn, the woman is declared not guilty.

In his book "The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness", Tim Keller writes about the fact that the gospel gives us a declaration of "not guilty" in the only courtroom that matters. Because Jesus is declared guilty in total innocence, those worthy of complete condemnation are set free.

Struggling with depression and self-esteem all life long has meant that I've wasted (often an inordinate amount of) time trying to figure out which things I feel condemned by are things I am guilty of, and which are just my personality, or an illness, or society...

This is why I find John 8 great news. Because there can be no doubt here. This woman is guilty. And yet, Jesus sets her free. Maybe every accusation brought against me is spot on and accurate, but the power of the cross, and the authority of the Name above all Names overrides.  Jesus is condemned in my place, and from his position of highest authority in the whole universe declares: neither do I condemn you!

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