There is, I am finding, a very interesting and lively discussion going on in my jddaugher brain over the last few months about the nature of judgment and the interpretation of the behavior of Jesus, as it relates to now.
In a nutshell, here goes.
For about 99% of my life up to this point, I have believed a certain way about the nature of the “sinners” Jesus ate with (Luke 15:2) during his ministry.
I thought that they were not actually committing grievous sins, but were all wrongly judged or held to false laws. For example, Pharisees would have seen publican’s as sinners, but Jesus hung out with them because he was devoid of pride and hypocrisy and knew that being a government worker was not actually a sin, no matter what political circles you rubbed elbows with. Samaritans were not sinners, because you cannot judge people based on their heritage. Women were not ritually unclean, because that was a mythological load of garbage, so he hung out with them. He knew that eating corn picked on the Sabbath was not a sin, so he did it. He knew that healing people on the Sabbath was not actually a sin, and so he did that to. To me, Christ was Christ not because he ate lunch with child-molesters and murderers, but because he rescued the unfairly accused and unjustly persecuted. As far as I can tell, the general Mormon feeling is much the same as mine was. One of the prime examples that sticks out in my head is the story of the woman taken into adultery in John 8. Now, within this story, there is an interesting debate going on in regards to translation. The oh-so-famous line “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) can also be seen (with a slightly different emphasis when reading) “He that is without this sin, let him first cast a stone at her.” In other words, sexual sin, adultery and the like. Now, I first came across this translational difference when reading “The Kingdom and the Crown” (Lund), which emphasizes that point in the narrative of the life of Christ…and since it was written by a General Authority, then many would believe this to be , at least an inspired, take on things.
Now, this one little word difference changes the meaning of the story. If this was, in fact, what Jesus said, then that means the the Pharisees slunk away because they themselves had ALL committed adultery…or something like it. Now, under this translation, the sin of the pharisees was not condemning a woman when, “Hey, no body’s perfect.” but because they were judging someone who had committed the exact same sin as them. Does that mean that if someone was there who had not committed such a sin, that they would have been free to throw a stone?
Is it then OK to pass judgment on someone who has committed a sin that you have not committed? I feel that, often, this interpretation and the resulting attitude, predominate our religious attitudes. This might be a product of the fact that many male leaders of the church are required to make judgments as bishops and high priests. Elder Oaks talk entitled “‘Judge Not’ and Judging” which focuses on a particular JST may also have a large part to do with the appeal of this interpretation.
As I have grown in the last few weeks I have had a few realizations, which lead me to deeply believe that Jesus was condemning them for sin, any sin, before casting the first stone. While, to my knowledge, I have not committed any major sins, or even the not-really sins “sins” ( I go to church for all three blocks, always pay a full tithe, don’t watch TV on Sunday, don’t even drink caffeine for crying out loud!), I have not really had to think deeply on this particular subject. Obviously good people are good, and bad people are bad, and should be kept away from the good people for the good people’s protection.
But I’ve grown. I’ve come in contact with people who keep every letter of the law…and then some…whom I find spiritually despicable, and I have known someone who committed sins that I could not tolerate, but who I think was the most Christ-like person I have ever met in my entire life. My experience with this person has changed me so much that the way I imagine Jesus has changed. While before, Jesus was a lot like a Simon Dewey painting with a decidedly “righteous Mormon” stereotype personality—Jesus the Bishop, Jesus the Elders Quorum President, Jesus the Eagle-Scout. But as I’ve read about the Life of Christ and met amazing people, I know see what true Christ-like behavior is…and how I don’t have it quite yet. I see my “sinning” friend now. Granted, a white-washed, sin-free version of my friend, but still him. I weep at his feet, I ask his forgiveness, I imagine him walking the streets of Galilee, talking to people much less cooler than him, a man without judgment but with great empathy and understanding. When I imagine Jesus Christ I imagine my friend the sinner…who I now believe is going to go to Heaven a million times faster than my Elders Quorum President…even if he doesn’t have a temple recommend.
Me and year ago, would have shot me a dirty-self-righteous-pitying look right now. A lot of people in my wards and branches liked and related to the old me…but I’m starting to think that Jesus was not one of them.
But I still have a difficult time seeing Jesus eating with murderers, child-molester’s and wife beaters. I still see a lot of truth to my original opinion on the nature of sinners Christ ate with. So, I wonder, other’s thoughts?