John 8: Dehumanizing Religion

One of the ugliest sides of religion is when it uses people.  Religion does this.  It pits people against each other in some cosmic game of “who is closer to God.”  We toot our own horns and then shoot pot-shots into other people.

In today’s reading, the religious people in the story drag a woman likely straight from the bedroom where she had been caught in adultery.  John even says, “they stood her out in the middle” of the crowd, before Jesus and asked him what should be done with her (8:3).  Are they really concerned with her sin?  Only mildly at best.  Are they really seeking justice?  Then where is the man she was with?  No, John makes it clear what they were doing:

They said this to test him, so that they could frame a charge against him. (8:6)

This woman is nothing more than a disgraced pawn caught in a desperate powerplay of the Pharisees.  She is just a platform on which to make their point that Law is to be followed.  She represents no more than an opportunity.  She is the faceless, story-less example of a moral issue.  This woman who had allowed herself to be used by a man for his passion is now being used by a whole cadre of men for their agenda of power.  The Pharisees are using this woman, in the name of religion.  Her sin was not excusable — and Jesus didn’t ignore it either (8:11b) — but she was still a human being.

When have we allowed our religious agendas to use people?  When has a person’s life become little more than a point in an argument or a story in a sermon?  When do we only see the immoral actions of people and fail to see the person doing the action?  Are there people who if they ceased to exist it would be fine with us?  Are there whole groups of people we easily write off with racial, religious, socio-economic, or political labels, caring less about their personal narratives?

Is there a way to follow our Master by seeing a person in need, not approving of their sin but also not condemning and dehumanizing them?

What caught your eye in this chapter?  

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Categories: John | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “John 8: Dehumanizing Religion

  1. Chris Dahlberg

    Over the years, in various works of fiction set in Jesus’ time, authors have speculated as to what Jesus was writing in the dirt….

    Any thoughts out there?

    • We will never know, I am sure, but the best options I have heard are these (you have probably heard these too):
      1. Jesus was writing out the sins of the Pharisees that had gathered in judgment on the woman. Ashamed by what they saw, they left. That is why they left one by one, as each was exposed in turn.
      2. Jesus wrote out some passage from the Torah that emphasized compassion and love, and when countered by their own cherished Scriptures the Pharisees left.
      3. The one I like the most (but have no reason to think it is accurate) comes from a book by the CCM artist Michael Card that Eddy loaned me once. Card talked about the ability art (Jesus was just literally drawing in the sand) has to cause us to get quiet, contemplate and change our hearts. It was this pause, caused by Jesus’ art, that caused sanity to return, the stones to drop, and the Pharisees to walk away. Interesting idea.

  2. Melanie

    I once heard a man say, “If we’re not careful, the next thing you know, we’ll end up with a whole church full of sinners.” He was reacting to the possibility of having an influx of unchurched people. Sad that he didn’t already see the church as a bunch of sinners–every last one of us! Nameless, story-less people are easy to ignore or patronize. We too often use them to make us feel better about ourselves, or we see them as a project–people to whom we deign to minister. Would that we could see them and ourselves as fellow sinners, all desperately in need of God’s grace!

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