Jesus Forgives, Why Can’t We?
by Libby Kowitz
In our social-media-driven world today, forgiveness is often a hard thing to come by. Rather than engaging in civil discussions, sharing ideas, and respecting opposing views, it has become very easy for many people to tune out anyone who does not agree with their particular viewpoint. When someone angers us, we are quick to click the little “unfollow” button at the top of their profile without another thought. And, when someone unfollows us, we are quick to reciprocate the action. From there, we may post passive aggressive tirades about the meaning of true friendship, talk about that person with others, and demean their value by choosing the desire to be right over human dignity.
We live in a world where forgiveness doesn’t seem necessary when we can block someone from seeing the images, words, and hashtags that we put on display for all the world to see. Oftentimes, it is easier to simply push someone away than it is to reconcile after a fight, disagreement, or miscommunication. Holding a grudge is easier than letting go of the anger inside of us. But, when we look at what God has to say about this we see something completely different from the grudge that society tells us to bear.
In John 8, Jesus Christ was at the temple in the early morning. Some of the Pharisees (who were supposed to be the religious elite) were trying to humiliate Jesus, so they brought forward a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. Jesus was known for preaching his messages of redemption and forgiveness, yet the law required that any woman caught in adultery should be stoned. They asked Jesus what they should do, believing that they had trapped him. At first, Jesus didn’t respond. Instead, he dropped to the ground and began writing in the sand. They asked again, and again, until he responded simply, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, NIV).
Then Jesus stooped to the ground and wrote in the sand again. One by one, those who had waited for Jesus to condemn this woman walked away. When Jesus and this woman were the only ones left there, he did not condemn her. He did not take a stone and throw it at her.
It’s interesting to me that Jesus said nothing to the woman until the crowd was gone. He did not publicly shame her as the self-righteous Pharisees did. He did not scoff at her, he did not ridicule her, he did not even address her sin to the crowd. It was not a teaching moment for him, as it could have easily become. He did not lecture her. He did not even address the Pharisees at first.
He began writing on the ground. When the Pharisees pestered him for a response, he did the last thing anyone expected; he called the Pharisees out on their sinful ways. This was a slap in the face for the Pharisees. They were the religious leaders of the day. They studied and enforced the laws of the Torah in society. And here came Jesus, a nobody from Nazareth, challenging their humility. On the one hand, they could have stayed and stoned the woman. But that would have been a lie, because they knew they were not perfect. On the other hand, the decision they were forced to make caused them to have to admit their imperfections.
So, they walked away. One by one they submitted themselves to humility until Jesus, the only one without sin, was still there with the woman. He waited until everyone was gone and then addressed her sin in private. He did not condemn her. He set her free. He forgave her. He told her to go and sin no more. It was as simple as that—a loving, intimate response.
If this situation were to happen in our culture today, Jesus would not have written a passive aggressive post on Facebook about how thankful he was that he had never committed adultery. He would not have blocked her on Instagram. He would not have run back to the Pharisees and talked about how he took the high road. He forgave the woman. He let it go. He had every right to be angry with a sinner. After all, it was humanity’s sin that separated people from God in the first place.
We live in a culture where it is very easy to make our anger public. We argue that our anger towards someone is justified, and we encourage those around us to take sides in our fights. But, that’s not what Jesus did. This is not an isolated instance. Time and time again in Scripture, we see Christ forgiving those who did not deserve it. He died on a cross, a criminal’s death, for adulterers, and murderers, and self-righteous Pharisees—and people like you and me. And he calls us to imitate his example of forgiveness and forgive others—even if they don’t deserve it.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14, 15, NLT).
Libby Kowitz is a blogger, aspiring author, and comic book artist. You can follow her blog at www.libbylou.guru.