For the past three years I have been enjoying making ornaments out of soda cans. I like the idea that I’m adding value to something that people have thrown away. I have been amazed by how beautiful the cans can be. One of my favorite ornaments to make is a butterfly. I cut out the shape of the butterfly using dies, and then emboss finer details onto the ornament with an embossing folder. I have made many (hundreds?) of these butterflies, with the consistent problem that I apply too much pressure while embossing. This results in breaking the metal in places. I have compensated by putting tape “patches” on the back of the ornaments to add strength. Just this last week I was excited to discover a new embossing technique that applies less pressure and doesn’t break the metal. I have now tried this method several times, and it consistently works.
I’ve thought for a long time that a good bumper sticker could be “God Recycles”. God sees the beauty and value in people even when the world is ready to throw them away. As followers of Christ, isn’t this what Jesus has taught us? Are we listening?
Sharing Christianity is not about completely changing people, but to help re-shape lives through our Christian faith. The finer details of Christianity are then embossed onto our lives as our faith deepens. This Christian embossing can happen in different ways. I believe that the gentlest way is through love. Other methods, like fear or judgement, risk breaking the person. Love consistently works.
Recently I have been thinking about the scripture where the woman was caught in adultery and was brought to Jesus by the pharisees and scribes while he was teaching in the temple. As they made the woman stand in front of the crowd, they said: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4-5).
When these religious leaders looked at this woman, what did they see? Sinner? Dirty? “Less than”? Someone who deserved death? What do we think Jesus saw when he looked at this woman? Beloved? Child of God? Precious?
I believe that it is important for us to try to recognize sin so that we can attempt to avoid it in our lives. Was Jesus’ intention to teach us about sin so that we would be qualified as judges over other people? I don’t think so.
We are told that the scribes and pharisees were testing Jesus, hoping to be able to bring charges against him. Jesus largely ignored them as he bent over and wrote in the dirt. They continued to pressure Jesus for an answer. Jesus straightened, and said: “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Jesus reversed the test and held up a mirror for everyone to look into. Jesus went back to writing in the dirt, while the crowd started to disperse. The first to leave were the elders. Soon only the woman and Jesus were left. Jesus asked: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said “No one, sir.” Jesus then said: “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (John 8:10-11).
I’m very aware that many of us now fall into the “religious leader” role. I hope that what will be written about us will be vastly different than what is written about the pharisees and scribes. I don’t know, though, if that will happen. It looks to me like we still try to test Christ with the law. Which does Jesus approve of —love and grace, or a stone ready to be thrown? Jesus is watching to see what we choose.
Your brother on the journey, Mark