The Hijacking of John 8:7

I have found a surefire way to get non-Christians to quote the Bible. All I do is pick a controversial issue within society. I then declare it to be wrong or sinful, and people who can’t even distinguish Genesis from Revelation are quick to pull Matthew 7:1 from their holster. It reads, “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged.” Most folks don’t even know the second part of this verse or the context that surrounds these words. They simply quote the part that best suits their agenda of tolerance. Related to Matthew 7:1 is John 8:7: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” These two verses have been high-jacked by our “do-not-judge” culture, but those who quote these verses the most, know them the least. Let’s consider John 8:7 in it’s context.

1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the courtthey said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more (Jn. 8:1-11).”

Here’s the reasoning often employed by a “no judgment” society: Jesus did not condemn a woman who committed adultery; therefore, we should not condemn others who are engaged in sin. Some take this proposition a step further by suggesting that, since no one is perfect then no one has the right to call anyone a sinner. Is this the message our Lord intended for us to glean from John 8:7? Hardly!

First of all, if Jesus is showing His approval for this woman’s sin, then He is highly inconsistent in His teaching. Our Lord spoke about the sanctity of marriage in Matthew 5 as well as Matthew 19. Secondly, the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus instead of to the proper authorities. If they really wanted to prosecute the woman, they would have taken her to Rome. Jesus had no jurisdiction in the matter. There was nothing He could do from a legal standpoint. The scribes and Pharisees were laying a trap for Jesus. If Jesus had pronounced a judicial sentence upon the sinful woman, the Jewish leaders could have reported it to the Roman authorities and Jesus would have been in hot water. The accusers, however, committed a major error. Their charge exposed their hypocrisy. They declared that the woman was caught in the “very act” of adultery. With that little statement the scribes and Pharisees incriminated themselves, for they were admitting that they knew the identity of the male involved. The Law explicitly stated that both the male and the female must be subjected to the same penalty; therefore, these prosecutors were in violation of the Law. They brought the woman, but why not the man? These Jewish leaders were so determined to back Jesus into a corner that they failed to follow proper procedure. So when Jesus says, “He who is without sin,” in essence He is stating, “None of you are in any position to stone this woman because you have violated the very law you claim to uphold.” Let’s be clear—Jesus is in no way sanctioning this woman’s sin. He even tells her, “Go. From now on sin no more.” What prompted this statement was the fact that there were no longer any accusers. They were gone, and with no witnesses, there was no case against the woman.

Just because we make a judgment doesn’t mean we are throwing rocks at a helpless person. We don’t have to be sinless in order to call a sin a sin. However, we must always exhibit the love of Christ when exposing the darkness of sin. We give our “do-not-judge” culture more ammunition when we preach the truth void of love. If we are rude, insensitive, or mean-spirited, we affirm the perception they already have of us. We may never change that perception, no matter how hard we try, but anger and malice are not the tools of our trade. Judging with righteous judgment (Jn. 7:24) means that we judge according to God’s standard, which means that we allow the righteous judge to do the condemning. Our responsibility is to illuminate God’s word in an effort to expose the ugliness of one’s sin.


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