Am I Accepted?

Posted by on Oct 15, 2013 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

October 13, 2013

“What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?

 Week 3: Am I Accepted?”

 Scripture: John 8:2-11

This morning we continue our series based on the book, What’s the least I can believe and still be a Christian?

 Our scripture reading comes from John 8:2-11. And as I read it I want you to locate yourself in the story because you are present somewhere in this story. You may be like the woman – condemned by everyone but needing forgiveness. You may be like the Pharisees – self-righteous judges of others but unable to see your own need. But hopefully, by the time you leave today, you will recognize that we are all accepted by God…because that’s the least you can believe and still be a Christian.

 Let’s read John 8:2-11:

 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you….”

Let’s look at some important things we can learn from this passage.

1. Jesus’ acceptance is not based on a person’s innocence. This woman was caught in the act. She was guilty of the crime. Her accusers were right, according to Jewish law: 

“The witnesses are to throw the first stone, and then the rest of the people are to stone that person, in this way you shall get rid of the evil.”  Deuteronomy 17:7

There was no defense to offer.

2. Jesus’ acceptance is not limited because the severity of someone’s sin.  This woman, who stood before Jesus and the crowd of her accusers, had just committed the act of adultery. The sin that she committed was a serious crime. It is not considered a serious crime in our day, but it was then. It was one of many crimes that carried the death penalty. It was ranked right along with murder, kidnapping, witchcraft and offering human sacrifice. This crime deserved the death penalty. 

Can you picture the scene there? Jesus is at the temple, and He was right in the middle of teaching a group of people who were gathered around Him. All of the sudden, Jesus is interrupted by the shouts of many men and the wailing of one woman. It would be comparable to a prostitute being dragged in here by a group of police, right in the middle of the message. All that she wants to do is to crawl into a corner and hide. She’s half-clothed, and the clothes that she does have on are about to fall off. Her accusers didn’t even give her time to get fully dressed when they caught her. The last place that she wants to be is near the temple. She feels so ashamed and so guilty. They won’t even allow her to ball up on the floor. She is forced to stand in front of the crowd so that everyone can stare at her. There she is, standing for all to see her, knowing the wickedness of the crime that she had committed. She knew what she had done. And she knew that it was a sin deserving of death. But what she did not yet know was that no matter how severe her sin was, Jesus would still forgive her. 

3. Jesus’ forgiveness of my sin is evidence of His concern for me as an individual.  

 Look at verse 6 of this passage. It says that “They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.” These leaders were pretending to be such defenders of the law – such champions of justice. They didn’t care about the law. If they cared so much about the law, where was the man that this woman had been caught sleeping with? According to the law, both of them were supposed to die, not just the woman. They certainly didn’t care about her. In fact, some have suggested that she was set-up. They may have planned the whole situation and sent in a man to coax her to sleep with him just so that these Pharisees could have the opportunity that was now before them. Their purpose there was to destroy Jesus, and the only way they could do that was by destroying that woman.

Now contrast Jesus’ attitude toward her with the attitude of her accusers. Think of what Jesus had to lose by his attitude toward this woman. He had already been accused of being a drunkard and a friend to prostitutes and tax-collectors. The more he championed people like this, the more people might start to question his own morals. If he hung around them, then surely he must participate in their sins. He risked the misunderstanding of the people. If he forgave her offense he would lose all credibility because he didn’t follow the Law.   But Jesus wasn’t concerned about avoiding the trap; Jesus was concerned with the woman.

Have you located yourself in the story? 

Sadly the Christian church is seen by some as the church that judges . . .the church that separates herself from sinners . . . the church that requires persons to change before they can be a part of “us.”  When she speaks with that voice she forgets what makes her unique.

Several decades ago, a group of theologians gathered in England for a conference on comparative religions. They grappled with the question, “Is there one belief completely unique to the Christian faith?”

As they debated the question, world famous author and theologian C.S. Lewis walked into the room. “What’s going on?” he asked. Someone told him that his colleagues were discussing the question, “Is there one belief unique to Christianity?” Lewis responded, “Oh that’s easy; it’s grace.”

He’s right.  Buddhists follow an eightfold path to righteousness; Hindus believe in the doctrine of Karma; Jews believe that in order to receive God’s blessing you must obey God’s covenant; Islam has a strict moral code that all Muslims must follow.

 In one way or another every religion in the world requires you to earn God’s approval. Every religion except Christianity: Christianity teaches God accepts people with no strings attached.

We call that “grace.”

In the beginning of the message I asked you to locate yourself in the story. For those who identify with the woman . . .who know what you have done  . . .who feel ashamed . . .who think you are unworthy of  God’s love,  hear the good news:  God knows what you have done and  loves you just as you are.  Nothing can separate you from God’s love. 

If you discovered that you are behaving like the Pharisee, more concerned about what is appropriate behavior than about the individual; it’s time to change. It’s time to remember what makes us unique. It’s time to extend grace.