John’s description of Jesus as “full of grace and truth” is intriguing. I had always understood ‘truth’ as a rather abstract concept.
The idea of truth being embodied in a person whose primary motive was grace thrilled me.
It reminded me of a story recounted by George D. Aldrich which appeared in The Washington Post on 16th June 1901:
‘I heard Dr. Conan Doyle tell a good story during a trip I made to London last winter. He said that at a dinner party he had attended the guests began discussing the daily discoveries made to the detriment of people occupying high stations in life and enjoying the confidence of the business world. Dr. Doyle said that it had always been his opinion that there was a skeleton in the closet of every man who had reached the age of forty. This led to a lot of discussion, some of the guests resenting the idea that there was no one who had not in his past something that were better concealed. As a result of the controversy, Dr. Doyle said, it was suggested that his views as to family skeletons be put to the test. The diners selected a man of their acquaintance whom all knew only as an upright Christian gentleman, whose word was accepted as quickly as his bond and who stood with the highest in every respect. We wrote a telegram saying ‘All is discovered; flee at once’ to this pillar of society, said Dr. Doyle, and sent it. He disappeared the next day and has never been heard from since.’
This woman had been hiding from polite society simply because the truth about herself had been too much for her to bear.
When her truth was viewed with eyes tinted by grace and applied by the Son of God, the woman was released from her prison.
At this point I found myself asking questions of Jesus and, as I began exploring this encounter even more deeply, the thing that struck me most forcibly was the fact that Jesus refused to stand in judgement and seems not to have been at all concerned about how this made him look to others.
There must have been villagers observing them: “why is that man talking to ‘that’ woman?” And the disciples: “what is our rabbi doing now?!” Yet Jesus wasn’t prepared to let fears about his own reputation stop him from affirming and restoring the dignity of a woman who had been destroyed by the bad reputation she had earned herself.
Jesus, the prophet, knew the truth and yet her experience of being fully known was one of knowing herself completely loved.
Jesus Refuses to Make Judgments
We are faced with the simple fact that Jesus, the only sinless man who ever lived and therefore the one most entitled to make a judgement on someone else’s behavior, refused to do so.
If we read the New Testament carefully we see that this refusal to stand in judgement over others was no accident. Most Christians who know their bible can quote John 3:16 from memory. When I am speaking in public I ask if anyone can quote the following verse, and rarely do I find more than one or two people who recall that it says:
“For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior.”
So God sent Jesus because a planet full of humans created to know themselves as accepted and loved by Him, had no worthy revelation of their creator. Generations of self-centered and self-serving individuals have built cultures that are resistant to God and have engaged in countless acts, large and small, hidden and notorious, that have caused untold suffering. Even those who try and live God’s way seem incapable of getting it right. And yet… Jesus refuses to stand in judgement of all but those from whom more is expected: the religious establishment.
Jesus explains why later in the Gospel:
‘Jesus said, “I tell you the truth: The Son can do nothing on his own; he does only what he sees his Father doing. What the Father does, the Son also does… Nor does the Father himself judge anyone. He has given his Son the full right to judge.”’
So Jesus has the right to make judgments and yet…
“If people hear my message and do not obey it, I will not judge them. I came, not to judge the world, but to save it.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean there is no judgement:
”Those who reject me and do not accept my message have one who will judge them. The words I have spoken will be their judge on the last day!’
It seems to me that Jesus sees acting as the world’s judge and its savior to be mutually exclusive. He knows he can’t be both at the same time and thankfully has no need to try.
Final judgement is waiting in the wings but is reserved until his return in glory. In the meantime, Jesus’ teaching and example stands as the standard by which those of us who seek to follow his Father can judge our progress, not as a means by which we can judge each other.
When have you judged someone rather than reaching out to them in love?
This post is from craigmillward.com & an adaptation of text from Craig’s book Disciplemaker.