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“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.”
John 8:3-9

In this election season, we have a lot to learn from the teachings of Jesus. One of the biggest lessons is about throwing stones.  Both our political parties are very good at throwing stones.  They are good at judging and criticizing, while ignoring their own sin.

This week, we’ve heard about Donald Trump’s taxes, or rather his failure to pay income taxes. He’s presumably done so within the law, but I’ll admit that his failure to pay his fair share of taxes annoys me.  I’ve always paid my taxes.  And when I was a single mother and working hard to make ends meet, paying my taxes was burdensome.  However, paying taxes is the price we pay for necessary things like roads, police, courts, schools, etc.  So I don’t mind paying my fair share of taxes.  I do mind when others fail to do the same.

The problem with news stories, like the ones about Trump’s taxes or Hillary Clinton’s email server, is that they encourage us to judge. Now there is nothing wrong with analyzing someone else’s behavior.  We do that all the time.  We assess the past behavior of others so we can predict their future behavior.  It allows us to know if someone is trustworthy or kind.  We then can decide whether if someone will be a good candidate for a job, or whether that person would make a good friend, spouse, or babysitter for our children.

Where we fall into a trap is when we judge.  Judging allows us to start throwing stones because when we judge, we conveniently forget about our own sin.  The reality is that not one of us is in a position to throw that first stone.  Like the scribes and Pharisees, we too would be walking away from the woman who had committed adultery.

Of course, as human beings, we are prone to judge. We all like to cast aspersions and name call.  But Jesus stops us dead in our tracks.  Interestingly, he doesn’t tell us not to judge because it is “bad.”  He instead asks us to first look at our own sin.  And then he wisely says, if you have no sin, feel free to throw stones.  The point being that we should be paying closer attention to our own sin than to the sins of others.

So while I’ve paid my taxes, I can’t throw stones at Donald Trump. I’ve sinned in other ways.  So I can use the information about Trump’s tax returns to assess whether he would be a good president, but I can’t use it to judge or condemn him.

This week, when you read the news or watch the political coverage, try to remember that we are all imperfect. We all come before God burdened with sin.  Don’t waste your time judging our political candidates or even your family members or friends.  Don’t spend your time name calling or thinking that you are better than anyone else.  Instead focus on this: In spite of your imperfection, in spite of your sin, God loves you.  So instead of judging, work at being more God-like in your attitude toward others.

 

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