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Minister's Forum

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Instead of pointing out others' sins, point out grace

If you want to start an interesting (and often heated) conversation today, all you have to ask is, “Who is responsible for this financial mess we are in?”

Just watch all the finger pointing! Folks will quickly point fingers of blame to politicians, banks, big oil or big business. They will point fingers of blame everywhere, but never at themselves!
We love to point fingers! In matters of morality, we do the same thing in our churches. We, who claim to be Christian, are quick to point out the sins of others. Some Christians are like the gunslingers of the Old West, except instead of being a “quick-draw” with a six-shooter, they are quick-draws with their pointing fingers.
These “quick-draw finger-pointers” walk through life like the gunfighters of the Old West – always alert, always ready, ever vigilant. They keep that finger ready in a well-greased “finger holster” to point at someone in the twinkling of an eye.
“Who is responsible for this?” In a flash, out comes the pointing finger. BANG! "He is!" “Who did that?” BANG! "She did!" “Who is the sinner?” BANG! "They are!"
However, in regard to finger pointing, Jesus asks us in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
Jesus was often challenged by the religious leaders of the day to do some finger pointing. In John, chapter 8, Jesus had just sat down to teach the crowd that had gathered around him. He was gaining great popularity with people because of his message of hope. The crowd is silent, because Jesus is speaking. All of a sudden, the silence is broken by a great commotion.
In verses 3-5, we are told that the great finger pointers of the day – the scribes and pharisees – came bursting onto the scene in a typical mob action, with a woman caught in adultery. They quickly point out the sin of this woman, and just as quickly point to the law! They point an accusing finger at the sinner and a condemning finger toward the law – she must be stoned! In verse 5, they ask Jesus, “So what do you say?”
Jesus could have pointed to the law and said, “That’s right, you have sinned, young lady.” He then could have pointed out the punishment prescribed in the law. That’s what the “quick-draw finger-pointing” pharisees expected Jesus to do. They felt that Jesus had no choice. If he did not agree with them, they could point a finger at him and charge him as a false teacher, saying that he didn't follow the law.
However, if Jesus had done this, he would have lost the trust of the people. They would have walked away discouraged, devoid of all hope, feeling that Jesus was just as legalistic as the pharisees.
But Jesus knew what the true motivation was of these finger pointers. Remarkably, he didn’t answer their question – he didn’t say a word! In fact, Jesus did something bizarre.
In verse 6, we are told that “Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.”  He wrote on the ground with his finger! We are told in verse 7 that the finger pointers kept pressuring him, so Jesus stood up and said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then Jesus bent down again and continued to write on the ground with his finger.
In verse 9, we find the finger pointers “holstering” their fingers, and – one by one – dropping their stones and walking away. In John 8:10-11, we read:  "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.'”
For the longest time, I focused my attention on speculation. What did Jesus write in the dirt? It’s fun to imagine what he wrote, but when we do so, we miss the true message of the scripture. There’s a reason we aren’t told what he wrote – because what he WROTE is not important! What’s important is what he DID – and DID NOT – do with his finger!
Jesus did not point a finger of condemnation at the woman. And he did not point a finger of accusation at the pharisees. He did not point his finger at the woman and tell her “That’s the law, and the sentence is death!” And he did not point his finger at the pharisees and say to them,  “You hypocrites – all the sins you have committed and you condemn this poor woman!” Jesus did not use his finger to point out condemnation or accusations. Instead, he pointed out GRACE!
There are so many people today seeking answers in life. Many of them know, or at least suspect, that they need to turn to God for those answers. But when they walk into our churches, they come away feeling more confused and more condemned than when they walked in. We are sometimes too quick to point out sin, and too slow to point out grace!
Christians, as you walk through life, look around you. Notice the people who are hurting. Instead of just simply pointing out the sin that is keeping them in bondage, remember to point out the grace that Jesus brings to them!