THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT – WEEK OF MARCH 18, 2018
DAILY READING: John 8:1–11
FOCUS PASSAGE: Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. (John 8:1–6)
Each of us have our own ways of making people pay for their sins. We may give them the cold shoulder. We may deal with them out of our learned passive-aggressive tendencies. We may broadcast their failings not-too-subtly to others. We may withhold the gift of our friendship.
The teachers of the Law and Pharisees in John 8 made this adulterous woman stand in their midst. They simply stood her up and looked at her with the glare of condemnation. They were glad to make a show of her and what she had done. Perhaps that was their way of dealing with the missteps of people: make them pay by public humiliation!
My hunch, however, is that they weren’t all that concerned with her actions and her morality. Rather, she was a pawn, an instrument, a tool they used to trap Jesus. They didn’t seem concerned about the woman. They were concerned for the disruption caused by Jesus.
Most of us use people for our own ends without realizing we are doing so. We make objects, tools, or instruments out of other people, using them for our purposes, manipulating them in ways that help us reach our desired end.
For the Pharisees, this meant using the woman as an object to pin down Jesus.
For us it may mean using a loved one, a friend, or a stranger to help us get what we want.
Our basic problem is an inherent self-centeredness in which we spin the universe around ourselves. We see others in light of what they can give us or what we can get from them. We use persons to further our purpose. Like the Pharisees, we can propose a “stoning” if it helps us get closer to our desired end.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus never objectified a person.
He didn’t deal with people on the basis of labels or categories.
He didn’t reduce people to how they helped him accomplish his mission.
He never diminished a person.
“He would not break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering wick” (Matt. 12:20).
He would not use a person for his own ends. Through his connection with the Father, he received all that he needed to accomplish his life-purpose.
Perhaps God is inviting you to see and relate to people differently. During the reflective days of Lent, you may be prompted to relate to people as persons, not as objects or as tools. It’s more difficult than you might think. Try it for 24 hours, though, and see how you do.
Each person you see today will be broken, needy, and poor in some way, even if they look whole, put-together, and wealthy. Their inner state is not cause for you to use them, but to extend compassion, mercy, and love to them.
The Lent Weekly Devotional series is written by Jerry Webber, Community Pastor, The Center for Christian Spirituality/Contemplative Worship.