“Neither do I condemn you…” John 8:11
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
“You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.” John 8:15
Condemnation. This word basically mean disapproval at the strongest level. When we condemn someone, there isn’t a lot of hope left for them; they are too far gone. Condemnation is the outcome of judgment. We look at someone’s actions or we hear their words and we judge them as doomed, condemned. There is no hope for them, they are too far gone. But condemnation is a choice we make.
No one has to condemn another person. We have another option: compassion. I love the story of the interaction between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery in John 8. She’s been caught in the very act of adultery. There is no argument out there she can use to prove her innocence. And the truth is, she isn’t innocent, she’s guilty of the charge against her and she knows it. This act of adultery is going to cost her everything, literally. She is not taken to court and given a fair trial, she is tossed like garbage in front of an accusing group of people and sentenced to death by stoning. No hope. No grace. No love. Condemnation. And then Jesus steps in and the whole world flips on its head.
Jesus, knowing the hearts of every single person He is looking at in this moment, brings grace. The religious leaders demand He agree with them, uphold the Law and condemn her. There would be absolutely no earthly reason for Jesus to do anything but pick up the first stone and throw it at her. Instead, He brings heaven to Earth and chooses people over everything else. He, knowing that every person standing there is a sinner, invites the one who is perfect to throw the first stone. I picture Him looking directly into the eyes of each person as He invites them into this moment. Not with a look of condemnation but, with a look of love and compassion. Finally the weight of their own sins become too much and they all walk away, knowing they are no better than this woman. Finally, Jesus walks over to the woman and pours grace out on her life by offering her another chance to live. He releases her in love and declares, “neither do I condemn you..”.
We have no right, no authority and no command to condemn anybody, ever. Jesus at no point in any of the Gospels bestows any power on us as His followers to judge anybody. He actually tells us the exact opposite. Jesus tells us to do things like love each other unconditionally (Matthew 22), pray for our enemies (Matthew 5) and turn the other cheek (Matthew 5). All of those activities are about compassion and not about judgment. They are about bringing heaven to Earth in a moment when it feels like hell is winning. They are about showing another person that they hold tremendous value and are deeply wanted.
We don’t have to agree on every point, but we do have to love and not condemn. It is possible to have a calm and rational conversation where we are sharing ideas and learning from each other and, where we walk away in respect and disagreement. The saying, “agree to disagree” is really powerful. I don’t have to convince you that I’m right and, even better, I don’t have to be obsessed with being seen as right. I can be like the people standing around the woman caught in adultery and walk away knowing that really, I’m no better I’m just sinning in a different way.
Compassion over condemnation. When given the choice, choose compassion and in that choice, find yourself following Jesus and bringing Heaven to Earth.