“I feel like you’re making up reasons to feel bad,” a dear friend suggested late one night. “Nobody is upset with you. You’re forgiven.” Seeing on my face that I didn’t feel convinced, he patted my shoulder and smiled. “You’ll feel better in the morning,” he said. “Go get some sleep.”
Six hours later, my eyes shut against the glowing numbers of my alarm clock, their outlines burned behind droopy eyelids, dreading another day. Another day feeling exhausted and ashamed because, not for the first time, my guilty heart had kept me up all night.
You know, I think the beginning of John 8 paints the perfect picture of what Jesus thinks of our condemnation. Everyone knows the story: scribes and Pharisees bring an adulterous woman to Jesus, telling Him the law demands they stone her. The religious men surrounded her, stones ready, faces lit with anticipation. It makes me smile to imagine those eager expressions turning confused as Jesus doesn’t answer, but bends down to write with his finger on the ground. When they continue to ask, understandably frustrated, Jesus stands up just long enough to say, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Most of us stop the story after the men throw down their stones and leave the woman alone. We get the point: don’t judge others because we all have sin, right? But I invite you to look past verse nine with me, because Jesus is not finished.
After everyone left, Jesus stood up again and asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” I think it must have taken her a minute or two to compose herself enough to speak. I mean, her life was at stake just moments earlier and now a strange man who spoke in riddles started asking her questions. She eventually looks up and responds, “No one, Lord.”
And after years of reading through the gospels, learning of God’s character and experiencing grace firsthand, I can’t imagine Jesus saying the next sentence without a loving smile on His face. He looks in her tearstained eyes and speaks right to her guilty heart, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
If you’re wrestling with guilt, or even denying grace because what you’ve done seems so bad, believe me when I say that you don’t have to worry. There is someone who knows your guilty heart. He knows it, and doesn’t condemn it. He protects it. He loves it. And is waiting for you to look up and see that He’s there.
So go get some sleep.