Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
Matthew 13:30 (ESV)
There’s a running theme throughout the Bible wherein God’s people are likened to a farmer’s crop at harvest. The wheat (God’s people) are separated from the weeds, chaff, and other plants that cannot be used for food; one is stored while the other is disposed. God clearly contrasts those who chose to follow Him with those who do not. Those who follow are to be distinct and separate in lifestyle choices.
For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
1 Thessalonians 4:7 (ESV)
but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15-16 (ESV)
Notice these passages don’t call us to perfection (1 John 1:8), they call us to distinction. They call us to a life of choices that focus the attention on Christ and what He has done for us. The sum of these choices makes a person a disciple of Christ.
What’s remarkable about the life choices of a disciple of Christ is not a person’s education, social standing or even their behaviour. It’s their trajectory. It’s the change others see from one moment to the next that demonstrates a constant focus to be more like the one who made the greatest difference in their life, Christ.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13 (ESV)
It’s easy to be dismissive about who God includes, but the Bible continually reiterates that anyone willing to come to Him is included. Jesus recognized this and modelled it well for us.
Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]
John 8:2-11 (ESV)
What I love about this passage is Jesus’s silent frustration with the religious leaders. That the Bible says, “They continued to ask him,” (emphasis mine) tells us that Jesus clearly spent a good amount of time ignoring them. To put this into perspective, writing in the dirt was more interesting to Jesus than fielding questions about the Law of Moses from people who should have patently known what was the correct course of action. Some scholars contend that Jesus was writing their names in the ground in fulfillment of Jeremiah 17:13. While we can’t know for certain (since the Bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus wrote), it seems fitting. Their role was to facilitate a connection with God, not stand as persons pious in word and deed. The New King James Version translates verse 4 by saying the woman was caught in the “very” act, which is a bit more accurate to the original text. It’s as though the religious leaders had lay in wait for her to sin. The notion that people charged with spiritual guidance would premeditatingly wait for a person to make a mistake instead of encouraging him or her to abandon their errant ways and pursue God whole-heartedly is absurd.
Jesus didn’t condemn the woman (though she did deserve it), but even more remarkable is that He didn’t condemn the accusers, either (though they did deserve it). He brought everyone to the same level: everyone has made poor decisions, everyone has sinned, everyone is standing in the same place as the adulteress woman. In view of that, everyone left but the accused woman and Jesus.
She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]
John 8:11 (ESV)
The word translated “condemn” doesn’t entirely encapsulate the meaning in the original text. While the original word can have a fairly negative connotation, which condemn certainly communicates well, it also means to judge or determine. In our language, it might be more accurate to say Jesus was acting as the judge, jury, and executioner; yet chose to set the woman free. The meaning becomes even more clear when the same word is translated “judge” while Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees just a few verses later in John 8:15-16.
We don’t have to wait for Jesus’s return to recognize that even now He separates individuals to follow Him. The tragedy here is that those who should have known the most what God wanted were the ones who knew the least. They had just as much an opportunity to stay and become His followers, but when the time came to separate those who were willing to follow Christ and “sin no more” from those who were not, we are left with only one individual: An unlikely Christian.