Some of you may be familiar with Jordan Peterson. He is a Canadian psychologist from the University of Toronto who has become famous in recent months for being a voice of reason in a world careening towards Marxism, totalitarianism and political correctness.
In his many lectures available on YouTube, he made this curious statement that has stuck with me. When people look at Nazi Germany, we want to judge the Germans for falling under the spell of the megalomaniac Adolf Hitler and his utter hatred for the Jews.
Somehow we have convinced ourselves that we are different and would never have been taken in by Hitler’s lies.
He says that if we had grown up in Germany when Hitler was coming to power, we (meaning you and I) would have become Nazis and embraced antisemitism just like the Germans did.
Certainly, there were a handful of people in Germany, like Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who opposed Hitler and died because of it. We can try to convince ourselves we would have been Bonhoeffer, but according to Peterson the reality is most of us would have embraced Adolf Hitler and the Nazis cause.
We can judge the Germans all we want, but most of us would have acted no different.
And this is at the root of a story found in the Gospel of John.
Trying to trap Christ, the pharisees and scribes brought a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). They asked Jesus if she should be stoned according to the law of Moses. In doing so they misinterpreted the law, but that is another story.
The poor woman was probably huddling on the ground as the Pharisees and scribes discussed her fate.
Jesus answered their accusation by saying the man who was without sin should cast the first stone. Christ then began writing words in the dirt and one by one the woman’s accusers left from the oldest first to the youngest.
It is not certain what Jesus wrote but some speculated it may have been a list of sins committed by those judging the woman.
Jesus then turned to the woman and asked where her accusers were:
10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” and Jesus said to her neither do I condemn you. (John 8:10-11 NASV)
Christ ended the discussion by saying He was not there to condemn her, but it is the very next verse that should catch our attention when Christ said:
12 … “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12 NASV)
Is the fact Jesus did not come to judge this woman linked to the Lord being the “Light of the world?”
We see in the story the pharisees were wanting to judge the woman for her sin. Having been caught in the very act, even the woman did not question her guilt.
But the issue here is judging and condemnation. Somehow the Pharisees had convinced themselves that they were different. They were a cut above this woman and could judge her. But when Jesus uttered the words “he who is without sin,” the Lord cut through this lie. As Jesus exposed their sins by the words written on the ground, they slowly slunk away.
Some Christians, myself included, believe we are called to judge, yet Christ says that His disciples are also to be a light to the world:
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; (Matthew 5:14 NASV)
If this is true, can we also judge?
This is point of judging. We are sinners. We are all capable of making the same mistakes. This is exactly the point Jesus made when He said that when we judge others we will be judged for exactly the same thing:
2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:2-3 NASV)
Anyone who thinks they are different has deluded themselves. As sinners, we are all capable of becoming Nazis.