I’ve been reading through the gospel of John this past week. Different things challenge me and different things stick out to me. One of the things that is really clear is Jesus’s unwillingness to classify sin. I’m really good about saying these sins are really bad (adultery, stealing, murder) and these are little sins (judging, white lies, gossip, not helping others in need) that aren’t as bad as the really “big ones.”
The problem is all sins are wrong, and God doesn’t classify sin. Sometimes as Christians we get Pharisaical in our attitudes and start thinking we know better than God what sin really is. We’re okay in preaching hard against homosexuality, abortion and adultery but then we go home and scream in anger at our children, let a curse word easily slip or pass on some juicy piece of information (we don’t call it gossip) that we learned about someone else. But it’s okay because those are the small sins and we haven’t done the big ones. I’ve noticed that too often as Christians we’re okay with our sin of condemning another person, but would never see our condemning attitude as wrong. It’s easy to point out what’s wrong in other people’s lives. Maybe that’s why Jesus chose to say this during the sermon on the mount.
For example, this week I ran across the first verses of John 8 and they stabbed me in the heart. The Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus that’s been caught in adultery. She probably lays in the dirt naked in front of them all. She’s been caught red handed and guilty as charged. Adultery is one of the bad sins and so the question is asked by the Pharisees, “Should we stone her?” as they stand with rocks already in their hands.
The question that keeps popping up in my mind is “Who was the greater sinner in the story? The woman caught in adultery or the Pharisees who were holding stones ready to execute her?” Naturally we’d say the sinner in the story was the adulterer, but who was it in the story that Jesus taught a lesson to?
Why is it that we put so much energy into condemning sexual sins compared with avoiding the judgmental, Pharisaical attitude of those with rocks in their hands? In the end, who killed Jesus, adulterers or condemning Pharisees? Listen, I’m not saying adultery or sexual sin is okay, it’s not. But I am saying that our modern view of how one sin is worse than another sin may be way off target. To God sin is sin, and maybe the best thing we can do is drop the rocks in our own hands and watch our own sin of being too judgemental, “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13).