“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” John 8: 4-8 NLT
One of my favorite visual interpretations of Jesus is in a scene from the movie The Passion of the Christ. The scene is in flashback and it is representative of the story in the Bible where people are going to stone a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery (John 8: 8-11). In the story, once Jesus tells the crowd of people ready to stone the woman, “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (v. 7), they all begin to walk away. The Passion movie interprets this story in the Bible as the “woman” being Mary Magdelene. As the crowd ready to stone her begins to walk away, you see them in the background all dropping their stones. The woman, is face down on the ground with a look of shame and defeat, reaching for the feet of Jesus. As Jesus reaches his hand down to her to help her up and she reaches out to him and looks up to him as if to say, really? I’m not worthy of your compassion. Jesus reaches out lovingly and compassionately to this woman who is filled with guilt and shame for what she has done, and faced with condemnation by the people that surrounded her. Whether or not you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, there was a man who once walked this earth named Jesus and his life was all about love, peace, and compassion.
Last Friday night I was riding home on the train when this a man got on at one of the stops and began to speak. He said,
Excuse me everybody…
Usually when a person gets on the train and says that, I know what’s coming next. Living in Chicago you become used to the countless “homeless people marketing campaigns.” It’s hard to decipher who is really in need and who is trying to scam you. As soon as the young man began to speak, I grabbed a tighter hold to my purse and stared intensely out the window. I shrunk down in my seat. I was in a bad mood and I didn’t want to listen to this person begging for money. The man went on to say…
I know you all don’t wanna hear what I have to say, but I’m just tired of being homeless and I know you all don’t want to listen to me, but I’m just trying to do better for myself right now.
At this point, I was still not trying not to listen…besides, its usually the same old story anyway. He went on to say…
My father is an alcoholic and he beat me and threw me out the house. I’ve been living on the street since then. He told me I was nothing. I just need some help. Any help you can give me so I can get something to eat. I’m not gonna use it for crack or liquor. I stayed in a shelter and you don’t know what goes on there. I’m just asking for some help, anything.
Bingo. I was at full attention now. The guy got my attention (or perhaps it was God who got my attention) when he expressed our level of connection…my father is an alcoholic. I began to think…my father was an alcoholic…but he never told me I was nothing, he never beat me, and he never threw me out the house. I’m so blessed. Then the man, (who although I hadn’t yet seen his face, I was convinced he was most likely a young man from the sound of his voice), went on to say…
My father told me I was nothing. And I am nothing, I know I’m nothing, I’m nobody. I’m nothing.
He kept repeating I’m nothing over and over again. I was almost in tears. No one else said anything. They probably thought he was lying. And maybe he was. But if he was lying, that was not about me. I was being prompted to show this man compassion.
I had just got paid that day and just so happened to have some cash on me. I took a chance and took a 5 dollar bill out of my wallet and walked toward the man, who, as I looked at him now, I realized he couldn’t have been more than 18 years old, if that. His face was pale and dirty. He looked like he had been through a lot, but his eyes were young and innocent. I looked him in the eyes and I told him,
First of all I want to tell you that you are someone. You are someone because God loves you.
I had no idea where these words were coming from. I’m not the type of person that goes up to people I don’t know telling them about God’s love. I can write it, but evangelism is just not my thing. He looked at me with eyes filled with pain, as if he were saying, really? I’m not worthy of your compassion. The words he actually spoke broke my heart,
Thank you ma’am, but sometimes I feel like God hates me.
Again, not knowing where the words were coming from, I told him,
No matter what has happened, what you have done, God loves you because He created you.
He looked at me with this puzzled look, as if he was about to cry. I gave him the 5 dollars and told him to take care of himself. When the train got to the next stop, he looked at me and said thank you ma’am and got off. Probably on to the next hustle…
Now could the guy have been lying? Sure. Was I putting myself in danger by opening my wallet on the train? You bet. Did the guy take my money and use it for drugs or alcohol? Probably. I have given money to people on the street before. But this was different. I couldn’t ignore this prompting from God. There was a level of connection to his story and the grace I have been given, I couldn’t deny this man compassion. I realized that it wasn’t about him, it was about my connection to his story and the ability to share in the human experience.
I’m not telling this story to give myself a pat on the back for giving, but only to demonstrate that everyone is deserving of compassion, even those who fall face down on the ground.