The Lord’s Prayer
And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is a debtor to us. —Luke 11:4
Judgment and Forgiveness
John 8:1-11. And Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him, and sitting down He taught them.
And the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman seized in adultery, and standing her in the midst, they say to Him, Teacher, this woman was seized committing adultery, in the very deed. And Moses in the Law commanded us that such should be stoned; what then sayest Thou? But this they said, tempting Him, that they might have reason to accuse Him. But Jesus, stooping down, with His finger wrote in the earth.
And as they continued asking Him, He stood up and said to them, He who is without sin among you, let him first cast the stone at her. And again stooping down, He wrote in the earth. And they, having heard, and being reproved by conscience, went out one by one, beginning from the elders until the last; and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
And Jesus, standing up and observing no one except the woman, said to her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Has no one condemned thee? And she said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more.
CL 523. The Lord says, “Judge not, that you be not condemned” (Matthew 7:1). This cannot in the least mean judging as to someone’s moral and civil life in the world, but judging someone’s spiritual and heavenly life. Who does not see that if people were not allowed to judge of the moral life of those dwelling with them in the world, society would collapse? What would become of society if there were no public courts of law, and if no one was permitted to have his judgment concerning another? But to judge what the inner mind or soul is like within, thus what a person’s spiritual state is and so his fate after death—of this one is not permitted to judge, because it is known to the Lord alone. Nor does the Lord reveal it until after death, in order that everyone may do what he does in freedom, and that good or evil may consequently be from him and so in him, and the person thus live his own life and be his own person to eternity.
CL 523:2. A general judgment is allowed, such as the following: “If you are in your inward qualities as you appear in your outward ones, you will be saved or condemned.” But a specific judgment— as for example to say, “You are of this or that character in your inward qualities, therefore you will be saved or condemned”—is not allowed.
Condemn the sin but not the sinner?
AC 8343. ...Falsities in faith and evils in life cast themselves into hell. On account of this, when angels think and talk about the hells, they think and talk about falsities and evils, completely separate from the inhabitants there; for angels always banish ideas that focus on persons and confine themselves to those that focus on things, 5225, 5287, 5434.
AC 5434e. Nevertheless, this abstracted idea involves persons, namely, those who are in the things in question.
The Lord’s Forgiveness
Luke 23:33-34. And when they had come to a place called Skull, there they crucified Him and the malefactors, one on the right hand and the other on the left. And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Questions and Comments
- By writing in the earth, Jesus may have been indicating the fulfillment of the words in Jeremiah 17:13: “O Jehovah, the hope of Israel, all who forsake Thee shall be ashamed, and they who turn aside away from Me shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken Jehovah, the spring of living waters.”
- Can we picture each of the characters in this story (John 8:1-11) speaking inside us?
- The Lord said two things to the woman, both from mercy. We need to hear both of these too.
- Is it clear what things we can and must judge, and what things we cannot? Can/must we judge another’s intentions? How does necessary judgment fit with forgiveness?
- In what situations is it good to distinguish the sin from the sinner, and in what situations must we not separate them?