Good in the Service of Evil?

Two women caught in adultery and people wanted them stoned to death – as required by the Law of Moses. Indeed, adultery is so destructive of loving relationships and of families, it should be dealt with severely. But, as often happens, a good law can sometimes be a tool for injustice and oppression.

The first woman was the beautiful Susanna. Two elders, respected in the community, lusted for her and were coercing her to lie with her or they would testify she was with a young man. Susanna refused and the two lecherous elders succeeded in having her condemned to death. Daniel came to the rescue of Susanna and exposed the perjury of the two dirty old men, for which they were the ones put to death. The laws on adultery have been for a long time more severe on girls and women, reflective of the bias of a patriarchal culture.

The other woman was brought to Jesus, whom the people asked Him to condemn to death by stoning as required by the Law of Moses. Jesus refuses to condemn her instead challenges those without sin to cast the first stone and the accusers of the woman began leaving one by one. When left alone with her, Jesus shows her mercy and compassion and forgives her.

Simples stories but they cause me great discomfort. We are called and challenged to be good and yet, how often is the good used to oppress the weak and the defenseless? How often do evil men use good intentions to take advantage of others? How can our sense of justice be sometimes so severe and demanding as to destroy rather than build, as to kill rather than pardon and restore? How can some people so pervert what is good and use it for evil?

If this sound all so contradictory and against all reason, Christ has shown us the opposite to be also true. He turned the wages of sin (that is, death) around and used it to bring us to eternal life. He confronted the evil in men’s heart and melted it away with love. He took what people lusted after, like being first or living in comfort and luxury, and made these His lifestyle. He declared that the first will be last and the last will be first. And to those who would follow Him, He offered the way of the cross, not a bed of roses. And quixotic it may seem, it has worked. That is why I have chosen to follow Jesus.

Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.
~ Psalm 23

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
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.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
John 8:1-11

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