Probably the most common complaint against Christians is that we are judgmental hypocrites. While unfortunately, that can be the case in some religious circles, freedom from judgment is one of the most beautiful things about a relationship with God. And more than freedom from the condemnation of others, faith in Christ offers something even more elusive: freedom from the guilt and self-hatred that we often put on ourselves.
Adulterous Woman – John 8
One of my favorite stories from the Gospels is about a woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees bring her before Jesus, reminding him that Moses commanded such sinners to be stoned. Jesus responds, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 ESVThe crowd slowly disperses, and the woman is left alone with Jesus, who says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:11 ESV
Jesus Is The Only Judge
The message most commonly drawn from this story is that everyone is a sinner, so no one has the right to judge anyone else. Jesus expertly puts the overly pious leaders with a superiority complex in their place and then drops the mic, leaving them without a comeback. This is certainly significant, but what is even more powerful to me is Jesus’ overwhelming humility. He asks the one without sin to throw a stone. Technically, that would be Jesus. He is the only one who had a right to throw that first stone because He is quite literally the only without sin. However, Jesus neither points this out nor takes the chance to judge. Instead, He chooses forgiveness.
None Can Condemn, Not Even Me
Like a substantial percentage of the population, I struggle with bouts of depression. In these dark times, I start to think the worst of myself, and the guilt begins to take a toll. I may define myself by my failures or think that I will never be good enough. However, then I remember that the righteous Judge, the one with the absolute standard of perfection, does not condemn me. The only one whose opinion about me matters at all is the one who has the power to write me off as unworthy, and he has chosen to love me instead. So how can I hate myself when Jesus loves me to the point of sacrificing his own life, despite my sins? Who am I to condemn myself when God forgives me for everything I have ever done or will do against Him?
Free In Love
I find it symbolic that at the end of the story of the adulterous woman, the only person left with her is Jesus. It is only after everyone leaves that He addresses her faith and gives a verdict. In the end, judgment is between God and you. Faith gives a blank slate, and no amount of shame can take that away. God’s love is big enough to cover any hatred you could ever have for yourself, or anyone else could ever have for you. Each of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14 ESVThis should be how we define ourselves, not by our flaws and insecurities. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 ESV No matter the thoughts and voices that tell us otherwise, Christ’s love sets us free from all kinds of condemnation.