Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Guilt Machine

They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 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 7:53-8:11, ESV)


I have a special machine it has taken a lifetime to build. I realize, at some level, that it really should be dismantled and destroyed, yet somehow it remains because I keep tending to it. I'm sure you have a similar one in your possession. They are "guilt machines" and they are a hold-over from a system long since abandoned by our Father because of the completed work of Jesus Christ. And so, in this first entry of a new year, I want to make a resolution - I will systematically and intentionally dismantle my guilt machine, rendering it ineffective to weigh in on and critique my life anymore. If I do nothing else, I will do this and invest my efforts and my future in the Truth that I do not stand condemned before God and I will not condemn myself.

The message to the woman brought before Jesus was clear from both perspectives. Her accusers (many speculate one of them was the unnamed contributing party) have brought her out for show with their own guilt machines in full swing. They are basing their accusation on the Law and we all know the Law has no power to forgive, it can only condemn. And the Rabbi promptly ignores their rants and doodles in the dirt. You can imagine their escalating rage and animosity.

The youngest ones, no doubt, are the most vehement because they are trying to prove their worth to their more seasoned counterparts. And then, He lifts his head up and looks as if He is about to speak ... and His words cut them to the quick, from the oldest back down to those idealistic younger members. They drop their rocks, they holster their words, they hitch up their guilt machines, and they slink off defeated by the simple thought - "Nobody's perfect, gentlemen. If one of you were perfect, feel free to throw the first stone at her."

In the scene that follows, I find the strength to fight against my own guilt and know that, while I am far from perfect, I am not condemned. The woman won't even look at Him at first. All she knows is that the men who took her are gone and she is face to face with Jesus. And then, He extends His love toward her and declares her uncondemned with the encouragement to live in the freedom of forgiveness based in gratitude for what has been done.

So many have been so afraid of the freedom of being uncondemned that they insist on keeping their guilt machines in good working order. They fear that the freedom from guilt will give license to sin and then grace will somehow be abused in the process. We're told that our heart and body are temples and we need to treat them as such out of some sense of duty. But all those thoughts are just the Law, sanded down and varnished in a slightly different shade. Those who lean this way miss the very essence of the last words to the woman from this passage - "Go, and live a life that seeks to obey God not out of some sense of duty, but out of the love that responds to redemption by wanting to move closer and closer with each moment."

As we travel this Crooked Path, we work on our hearts so that the relationship can be better, so that we can drain every last drop of joy out of it and live as a community of the redeemed. We subject our bodies to improvement so that we can have the best relationship and not be hindered as much. We live in the glow of a Love that knew no bounds and offered it all. And we dismantle our guilt machines because they have no place in this relationship. God has declared us uncondemned - who then can condemn us ever again?


  1. So, which are you today? Are still wallowing in a state of condemnation, or basking in the glow of the extreme forgiveness of God who has declared you uncondemned in His own sight?
  2. How's your own guilt machine functioning? Do you find you keep the gears oiled and the works finely tuned? Can you see how much this runs counter to what God has done and declared for you?
  3. Are you willing to commit to giving it up, whether it is the New Year for you or not? Is your view of God big enough to let Him love you without the need for the guilt He has already resolved?

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