Everyone is guilty
John 8:1-11 CEB
We are all sinners. We all fall short of the glory of God. Often, our black spot, the thing that condemns us all is collective sin. I define collective sin differently than many others. Collective sin is when the sin becomes acceptable and doing what is right is punishable. It is in collective sin martyrs arise who lose everything for the sins of others. This is why we should raise up these select people willing to lose everything for the sake of what is right, while at the same time crying out for the injustice that they lost to begin with. Collective sin is far more dangerous than individual sin because it causes good people to do bad things. When the world needs someone to stand up and speak the truth the collective urges the person to sit down and shut up or the price could be dire. Collective sin destroys what is good, corrupts what is right, and hides what needs to be brought out in the open. And we are all covered in it. There is no way to remove the stain of collective sin, unless... unless we are willing to be the one to give up everything for the sake of everyone else.
Jesus was confronted with the collective sin of the day. The temple had too much power and all the wrong kind. It was right for Jesus to take time to teach those who wanted to be taught. Perhaps the Priests were jealous of Jesus getting all the attention. Perhaps they were fearful. Maybe they were both. No matter what the Priests were thinking they find a woman guilty of adultery and drop her in the middle of this group, a group gaining something from Jesus' teaching up until that point. (Ever thought about how the teachers of the law found this woman so easily. It is almost as if they had her in their back pocket the whole time to use her when they saw fit. I repeat, they used her. They never helped her. Not directly, at least.)
There was so much wrong with the situation. First, there are the religious leaders using a person like a pawn in their mind games with Jesus. Second, there is the crowd, silent. Too silent. Finally, the good news, the teaching, is done. No one learns anymore after this moment. Remember, everyone disperses. Only the woman and Jesus stand at the end. I have no idea what Jesus was scribbling in the dirt, but that is exactly what I would be doing if I was super upset and I was trying to remain calm and collected. I would doodle. I would fold a piece of paper. I would rub my face. Something. So much is ruined because collective sin takes hold and destroys it.
We suffer from the problem today of needing someone to condemn. We openly, without any remorse place this person in the middle of the circle and raise our rocks to kill. Yes, they are guilty. Every crime we are putting before them is completely and honestly true. The problem is, we are all guilty. We all deserve to stand in the middle and face the stones and rocks. Choosing a scapegoat to take our collective sin has never solved the problem. It only allows us to ignore the problem for a little while longer. While we ignore the problem more good is destroyed, right is corrupted, and truth hidden. The problems become worse.
It is with no easy heart I tell you exactly who we have put in the middle of the circle today: George Zimmerman. We should be having a conversation about race relations. We should be attempting to restore the divide which has never been fully healed. Instead the conversation has been stopped. The lessons have gone mute and Zimmerman has been put in the middle of the circle for us to condemn. We live in a world today where the collective has named his sin, and we are the punish him. Stone him. Kill him.
But Jesus wouldn't say we should or shouldn't punish Zimmerman. Instead Jesus would say, "Let the one without sin cast the first stone." It is not the one without Zimmerman's sin. No. It is the person without sin. Sin, that which separates us from God's love and one another, melts over and bleeds into multiple areas.
This issue is deeper than the Stand Your Ground Law. Racism is wider than one man. We should see what we are doing. As angry, hurt, betrayed as we feel, it is wrong to put our sins on this one man. It might even sting to imagine Zimmerman as the sinner in the middle. The person in the middle is always someone you feel uncomfortable letting go. The person in the middle is always someone who causes you to feel the rock drop soundly in your heart when you are asked to examine yourself before you exact punishment on this person.
I hear both sides. He's innocent. He's guilty. The truth lies in between. We are all guilty. The answer lies in Jesus' final words: “Woman, where are they? Is there no one to condemn you?” She said, “No one, sir.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.” If we can put down our rocks and choose to not condemn Zimmerman, neither will Jesus condemn us. We cannot change what has happened, but we can go forward and try not to do it again.
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