There’s Room for You and Me
Confession: I have an “I’m better than you” complex.
In my doubting, I believe I’m better than those who speak with certainty about God and His teachings.
In my “arms open” approach to faith, I believe I’m better than those whose beliefs about God cause them to be more careful about who and what they accept.
In my desire for the oppressed to be given justice, I believe I’m better than those whose privilege allows them to look past and sometimes not even see others’ plights.
I’m not alone in my “I’m better than you” complex.
In the book of John in the Bible, there’s a story where a group of religious leaders take into custody a woman who they caught in the act of adultery.
I think it’s interesting how these “holier than thou” religious leaders just happen to stumble upon this woman in the act of adultery, but I digress.
They bring the woman to Jesus and one of them, trying to put Jesus in an awkward situation, says, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
Jesus, slick as all get out, doesn’t say anything; He bends down and begins writing with His finger in the dirt. People often wonder what Jesus wrote. The religious leaders wondered what Jesus was writing too, so they take their eyes off the woman and begin staring at Jesus.
Then, Jesus stands up and says, “Let [whoever] is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
One by one, this group of “I’m better than you” scribes and Pharisees begins walking away. The older ones leave first, and the younger ones follow until the only people left are Jesus and the woman.
In the religious leaders’ response, or lack thereof, what I see is that we’re all sick and in need of healing.
I don’t know about you, but I become the most annoying, dependent baby when I’m sick. I call my mom incessantly and expect her to take care of me all the way from North Carolina.
But in Jesus’ reminder that I’m sick and in need of healing, I find hope because so are you. And so is my coworker. And so is my girlfriend. And so is my gay friend, as well as the pastor who believes his sexual orientation is sinful.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There is a crack in everything God has made.”
Ernest Kurtz wrote, “To deny imperfection is to disown oneself, for to be human is to be imperfect.”
None of us can cast stones, for we are all with sin. We’re all in need of healing. Therefore, my job is not to become fixated on the sin in your life, but to tend to the healing of my own heart and love you through the healing of yours.
As Billy Graham once put it, “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.”
No one has a perfect, objective, inerrant understanding of God; therefore, as we recognize we don’t have all the answers, we lose the need for short, definitive, closed-door statements.
Rather, there’s room for conversation, questions, learning, storytelling, I don’t knows, agreements and disagreements. There’s room for compassion, confession, repentance, humility and understanding.
There’s room for you and me because, as we drop our stones and acknowledge our weaknesses, there’s room for love.
There’s room for grace.
I recently started going to a new church, and two things happen every service that have been so good for my soul. One is that, after the sermon, all of us are invited to come to the table for communion in remembrance of Christ, the “mercy seat” in whom we’re free to meet with God and find healing for our infections and shortcomings.
The other is a prayer we all speak out loud together as a community:
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
In Christ, there’s no “I’m better than you.”
There’s only “I’m with you.”