Troublemakers must be dealt with

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By Al Earley

From a Religious Point of View

Jesus was a troublemaker. He forgave sins, ate with sinners, touched lepers, healed on the Sabbath, and told people God could forgive their sins without the help of the chief priests and sacrifices. Jesus qualified as an out-of-control troublemaker as far as the religious elite of His day were concerned. All the things listed above are central to what we believe are part of the Good News of our Christian faith. But, in his day, these actions threatened the status quo, and made him a troublemaker.

The Pharisees and other religious leaders often tried to trick Jesus into making a mistake that could be used against him in a Roman court to put him away. In John 8:1-11 we see just such a test. The Pharisees caught a woman in adultery. It is clear that this is a setup, for Jesus has a large congregation with him when they arrive. That means more people to witness their cleverness, and Jesus' inability to handle tough questions.

They ask 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?"

This put Jesus in quite an awkward situation. If he says to do as the law of Moses demands, then they will report Jesus to the Roman authorities, who will immediately imprison him for breaking the Peace of Rome. If he says to follow the Roman laws, then he would lose his following amongst many, if not most, of the people listening. What

would you have answered in this situation?

Jesus doesn't answer anything. He kneels down and starts writing in the dirt. All get impatient, until he says, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." And then he goes back to writing in the dirt! That statement and whatever he wrote in the dirt convinced all who were there to leave.

Many have wondered what Jesus wrote in the ground that day that convinced them to abandon their perfect plan to catch him. The most powerful conjecture I have read is that Jesus wrote their sins in the dirt. And as they read those sins, they feared that they too would be exposed and deserved to be stoned as well.

As we marvel at Jesus' brilliant move to escape the snare of the Pharisees, the real Good News comes when Jesus confronts the woman caught in adultery. He asks, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your own way, and from now on do not sin again."

Jesus gave this woman new life and set her free from past sins. This gift of forgiveness is our hope when we break the moral and ethical laws we know are against God's will. Jesus challenged her to sin no more. In this statement he let her know that adultery is wrong. But it is not an unforgivable sin!

In our honest moments we realize that we struggle constantly with sin. Then the apostle Paul's words ring with truth as we read, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, and I do the very thing I hate" (Romans 7:15). Yet, God does forgive us. If you are struggling with the sins of your past, take time now to lift them to

God and ask forgiveness. Believe that your sins are forgiven, and experience the freedom that comes from God's mercy and grace. If you do not understand this power of forgiveness go find someone that does, and ask them to explain it, and help you be free from sin in the name of Jesus Christ.

Al Earley is pastor of La Grange Presbyterian Church. The views expressed in this column may not necessarily represent the views of The Oldham Era.