She was on the ground, crying, terrified about what was about to happen, consumed with terror as a group of men surrounded her, all grasping thick, heavy stones, prepared to hurl them at her with the full force of their pent-up rage, their judgement of her crime, the crime of adultery. Even she knew she deserved what was coming. It was justice under their law. But that didn’t stop her screams, the accepted justice of it all did not prevent her from calling out for help, for begging to be spared. Her screams of terror pierced their ears, but could not penetrate their wall of judgement. They were blinded by their righteousness.
And then he stepped beside her. Crouching down, he began to draw in the sand. Some speculate, that he was writing names, the names of the men who were poised to exact their judgement on her; the price of her sin, death. The names of those who were just as guilty as she.
And then he picked up a stone, and stood up beside her as if he was going to hurl it at the men to defend her. Looking at the men, he held up the stone, and said, “he, who is without sin, may cast the first stone.” And he let the stone drop to the ground. The men froze, for they did not know what to do. They knew at that moment, the stones in their hands were useless. No one among them had the right, the moral authority to cast a single stone at that woman. So, they all dropped their stones, and disappeared, leaving the woman with that one man, the only man among them who could judge her. He then turned to the woman, and said, “go, and sin no more.”
This is one of the most profound stories in the Christian tradition. It shares a lesson that human beings have yet to learn, a lesson that is desperately needed in our country today; the dual, and seemingly contradictory principles of non-judgmental morality. Jesus did not take away the sin of adultery; he took away the sin of the woman. St. Augustine summed up this dichotomy when he wrote, “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” Gandhi put it this way, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”
But, today in America, we are trapped in the exact opposite dynamic; a highly judgmental immorality. We hate the sinner; we despise the sinner. We can only accept the sinner, and love the sinner, if we elevate their sin, if we transform their immorality into a warped form of morality. If you do not agree with or sign onto this immorality, if your sin is on the wrong side of society’s moral divide, there is nothing but hate waiting for you. You are canceled, as if you are no longer worthy to be viewed as a human being. You are judged into oblivion, stoned to a virtual death by hard striking computer keys, pounding away at the “sinner”; death by a thousand strokes or 140 characters. There is no understanding, no compassion, no forgiveness, no love of their fellow man. All there is, is judgment; hard striking judgment until there is nothing left of the one being judged.
The self-appointed judges take great self-pride in their ability to judge, in their self-righteousness, for they in that moment are better than the other, and their superiority is displayed for the world in how they position themselves next to the one they are judging, not crouched down next them on the same level like Jesus with the woman, but high, above, superior, better.
Today, on Easter Sunday, it is a reminder of what Jesus did. He took away the sins of the world. He didn’t remove sin from the world. He forgave sin. He absolved us of our sins, and like to the woman, he commands us to “go, and sin no more.”
We don’t need more judgement in this country. We have enough people throwing stones at each other, dividing us by their self-ascribed virtue. We need more understanding, more forgiveness, more love, and a greater resolve to “go, and sin no more.”
Judd Garrett is a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He is a frequent contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.