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Sunday Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Her Too? - July 16, 2017

John 8:1-11

What happens when your neighbor is a sinner? I mean like a real sinner...not just a simple mistake sinner...but the kind who intentionally, on purpose, sinned. They chose pride or greed, or lust, or revenge, or laziness over choosing God. What if your neighbor is a sinner? Can you love them? Do they need to be convinced of their sin first?

What if we get hung up about loving our neighbor because they haven't repented. They sinned. We know it. And we would hope they know it...but they don't really seem sorry about it. How do we love them when we know they've done wrong? And not just a little something

wrong, but a big something? How do we show compassion and grace if they don't show remorse?
When someone does something wrong, we often cry for justice. We want them to fix it....to make it right, or at least....to pay the price.

But really, in the scheme of things, justice doesn't really fix it. Think about it. Say someone steals a loaf of bread from you. It's only a loaf of bread. And they bring one with an apology the next day. In a way, justice was served...they paid the price....a loaf of bread. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth....a loaf for a loaf. Except the damage goes beyond the cost of the loaf of the bread, doesn't it? It cost you the meal you had prepared for that day....maybe time or energy to plan something else....or go back to the store for another loaf yourself...or maybe worse yet, there was no plan b, no other means or option...so instead you, and your kids went to bed hungry. The returned loaf can't restore any of those things, can it? So maybe they owe you two...one for the one they took and one to *pay* for the other things you lost that night. But the inadequacy of justice doesn't often prevent us from seeking it. And don't hear me saying that justice is a bad thing. I'm not saying that either. What I am saying is that following the letter of the law doesn't guarantee that we'll actualize the spirit of the law.

The reality is, sometimes we get so hung up on being right that we fail to do what is righteous. Being right and being righteous are not one in the same. Being *right* means you have the letter of the law on your side. But being righteous means following the ways of God. Now, presumably, the law comes from God, so if you have that you're good. But the Pharisees proved over and over again, that the letter of the law didn't always convey the spirit of the law....and what God really seeks after is faithfulness to the spirit of the law.

If we go back to the 10 commandments...I know, it's been nearly 6 months, but I trust something sunk in....what is the purpose of the 10 commandments? Why did God provide them? So that we might have healthy, fruitful and loving relationships with God and with each other. Following the law is important....why? Because it empowers us to have healthy, loving, and fruitful relationships with God and with each other. So, if we're struggling to have that dynamic with our neighbor...what should we seek after? The law? Maybe, but maybe not....instead, maybe we should seek after loving healthy and fruitful relationships.

It might seem like semantics...you say po-tA-to I say po-ta-to. Let's think about it in a totally different way. What's the purpose of education? Learning. Right. Now, how is learning measured? By grades. Presumably, if you're learning, you should get good grades, right? But is that always true? No. Some people learn the material but don't have the grades to show for it. And then there are others, who haven't really learned much of anything but can make the grades. What is most important? I'm not talking politics or funding...just the basic question...what matters most? The learning or the grade? The learning. But sometimes the system makes us obsess about the grade. But if you were teaching...what do you want your students to focus on.....the learning or the grade?

It's kind of like that with the biblical laws. What is most important the law or the healthy, loving and fruitful relationships? The relationships. Could someone follow the law and not have healthy, loving and fruitful relationships? Sure. Give them a hard heart and they'll have trouble with the rest. And on the flip side, could someone have healthy, loving and fruitful relationships without following the letter of the law? Yes. And which is most important? The relationships. I'm not arguing against the law, I'm only saying it's the means to the end and not the end itself, just like grades are a means to measure learning but they aren't the learning itself.

So, we have the letter of the law and we have relationships. And now we come back to the scene of our scripture today. We see this woman who was caught in adultery. We know nothing else about her story. Nothing. Only that she was caught in adultery and people wanted justice to be served. They were compelled make it right. The letter of the law required it. Now, I'm not even going to try and argue added perspective about this woman or the cause of the affair or the truth about the relationship or assuming it was real love...we're not going there. Because that's about the letter of the law. And we'll get hung up there. Just like her accusers did. We'll want justice...or at least justification...one of the two. But both of them miss the point...at least in terms of what it means to be a loving neighbor.

What matters in terms of being a loving neighbor is the relationship—compassion, empathy and ultimately grace. Regardless of her sins or his sins or anyone else's sins, this woman is a person in need of grace. We can get caught up. We can look for justice and restitution....for the proper penalty to be paid. And when we do, Jesus will look at us and say, "Be careful with that one...it's a slippery slope...because when you begin to demand justice....at all costs...you draw a deep line in the sand. And that demand for justice isn't just about her....it also becomes about you. After all....if you truly seek justice...you must seek it for everyone. Including yourself. So, if it's justice you seek, it's justice you shall have."

(grab the bucket of rocks)

For who among you shall cast the first stone?
The one who is without sin.
Come on down.
If it's justice you seek, it's justice you shall have.
Who is first?

Well, sure, sitting in the pew of the church you don't want to step up. You'd be seen as judgmental. But, we grab a lot of rocks in our day to day life. We may not throw them, or we may only throw them in someone's general direction....not to kill them, only to prove a point, but, the reality is that throwing rocks won't help us get what God ultimately seeks. Throwing rocks fully get's in the way of healthy, loving, and fruitful relationships.

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