“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.”
J O H N 8 : 3 – 9
**So, I really need you to read this passage of scripture in it’s entirety! I understand it’s a little longer than what I usually focus on, but it’s vital for understanding this journal post.
I recently wrote a blog post for anythingchristian.com and I brushed over the “Pharisee mindset.” It is the over-spiritual, arrogant, judgmental, prideful, yet simultaneously insecure mindset that some Christians still unfortunately carry. This is what we continually need to try and fight off because the bible is clear that “haughty eyes” and a prideful spirit are things that the Lord hates (Proverbs 16:5). And if He hates it, then we don’t want it! Pride not only steers others away, but also blinds us of our own sin, leads ou to forget where we came from (past sins) and it keeps us laser focused on the sin and shortcomings of those around us. Scary place to be. To be blinded by your sin is a very scary place to be. Pride leads to trying to change those around you.
changing people with stones.
As we read this passage of scripture, we see that the Pharisees wanted to condemn this woman for her sinful actions by stoning her to death. Being the puffed up with pride and all-knowing leaders that they were, they felt they had the right to do such a thing. They believed making an example of this woman would teach other people to change their sinful ways. But, they also had another agenda; they wanted to see how Jesus would respond to their desire to stone her. I’ll talk more about how Jesus handled this a little later…
Trying to change yourself: How often do you catch yourself wanting to change people? Well the truth is we can’t change people. It’s hard enough to change ourselves! There could be something about you that you hate so much that you have tried to change, but can’t. It can be something as simple as keeping your car clean, or as serious as an addiction. And I am not just talking about self-improvement. We can pretend to be better on our own, but Jesus transforms lives.
Trying to change unbelievers: Try to tell someone who is not a Christian to stop doing this, start doing that… They will not only continue to do it, but they will also build resentment towards you. They will see you as a typical judgmental Christian, because you have never taken the time to:
- Build a relationship with them. Therefore you do not have permission to speak into their lives.
- Care enough to hear where they are coming from. Have you attempted to understand why they are the way that they are or do the things that they do?
- Share the truth in a way that does not condemn, but offers hope. That is the gospel.
OK, moment of transparency here. I am very sad to say that this is something that I have been guilty of in the past. Let me explain. When I first rededicated my life to the Lord, I was just about to turn 18. I started reading my bible for the first time and a lot of truths were revealed to me! I mean, it felt as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes and I could finally see just how much God loved me, the severity of my sin and how much I longed for a Savior without even realizing it (I talk more about that in a previous entry that you can find here.). And out of these newly revealed truths I started looking around and seeing how many other people, just like me, were in sin without them even knowing it! So, what does 18 year old Jazz start to do? She goes to her friends and family members, which she loves, and starts telling them how they need to stop doing this and that because the bible says that it is a sin and it will cause a lot of hurt for them! Guess how well that turned out. I was trying to stone them for their sin, even though I was joining them in it not too long before that! And although it was coming from a sincere place to share truth, it was an incorrect method. It wasn’t right of me to expect people to respond to my demand for them to change. I was trying to change them with stones.
Now, if I see a brother of sister in Christ living openly and unapologetic in sin, then I have a responsibility to reach out to them in love in order to keep them from continuing down that path that leads to destruction. But, for someone who does not walk with the Lord, does not carry the knowledge of the word, does not hold the bible as truth, and has not experienced a relationship with Jesus, I cannot possibly expect them to understand when I tell them to stop! So what did I learn from that?
If the truth has been revealed to you and if your eyes have been opened to what is wrong or right, then understand that you were living blind to the truth at some point too. You needed timed and grace the same way other people do. So what they need is not a list of things they shouldn’t do. They need someone to offer them hope… They need Jesus. They need to experience His love which transforms.
This is why the man standing on the side of the road with a sign that says “JESUS HATES HOMOSEXUALS, TURN & REPENT” doesn’t represent Jesus in the slightest bit. That’s the kind of thing that gives Christians a bad rap. It’s when people behave in a manner that is contrary to Christ, in the name of Christ. But, what’s interesting is that Jesus (the only one actually capable of transforming people from dead to alive), doesn’t change people the way we would believe He would.
So what should we do when we can’t change people, but want to live a life that represents the change in us thanks to the mercy and love of Jesus? Well, let’s look to HIM for the answer… but first let’s look at what He didn’t do.
WHAT JESUS DIDN’T DO
Let’s be clear, He did not justify the sin. On the contrary, Jesus looked people in the eye and told them to repent, or turn from their sin, but He did this after challenging them to think differently and see through a new lens. He did not tell the Pharisees all that they are doing wrong and send them off changed men. He did not merely condemn the woman caught in doing wrong and continue on in His ministry. How often have we been told what we are doing wrong, but never changed? To be told to simply change is simply not enough. Jesus knew that this woman needed to experience love and grace like she never had before. And this new found perspective and understanding of His love, change her on the inside. Condemning people without offering them the truth of God’s love which transforms is not the right route to take. You will end up losing the opportunity to allow Jesus to use you to show His grace and you end up creating more enemies. Basically, don’t do what I did!!
WHAT JESUS DID
Let’s take John 8:3-9 for example. Jesus did something that was life changing. He did it with the Pharisees, with the woman caught in adultery, and He did it with His disciples. So, what is it?
= He challenged their thinking by changing their perspective.
He challenged and changed their perspective by asking the right question. “Who is without sin?” He is essentially saying: “Who doesn’t need Me? Who can be saved from their sinful ways without me? Is she alone in her sin? Or is she the only one that got caught in it? Who is good enough on their own? How well have you changed yourself without me?” By helping them see a different way, His way, it caused conviction and left them without words. I love when God does that by the way! His truth cannot be challenged, but He will always challenge you with His truth.
This is why the bible says to be changed by the renewing of your mind. Check your thinking. Check your mindset. Size it up to the truth of His word. Is there something off with your perspective of things? Let Jesus transform you by changing the way you think. He did this with his disciples constantly. When the disciples started focusing on the wrong things, such as when they asked Him which disciple would be greatest in Heaven, Jesus called them out in love. He did this by asking the right questions to show them that they are asking the wrong ones. When truth is revealed and demonstrated it allows change of perspective, which creates understanding and leads to change of behavior. And this all happens out of Christ’s love for us.
Maybe Jesus is challenging your perspective on something. Maybe there is something that you just don’t understand. For example, some people believe in Jesus, but they are unable to understand the point of waiting until your married before having sex. But, by allowing God to show you the consequences of your sin from His perspective, it allows you to understand how much He loves and cares for you and we start to understand that His way is the best way.
When it comes to non believers: Don’t question the “what,” but the “why.” Why is it that they act, speak and think the they way they do? This is when understanding is created and can then be meshed with grace and completed with truth in love.
TYING IT ALL TOGETHER
Trying to change people will prove to be a pointless effort. Instead, try to offer them a new perspective.
I’ll tell you right now, it’s more effective to challenge someone’s mindset than their actions.
LISTEN. Don’t interrupt, don’t judge, don’t assume. Listen to people. Don’t be afraid to understand. Seek to hear them for the purpose of understanding their perspective as if it were your own. Take a second to look past their actions and invest a little deeper by hearing their heart. This will give us the ability to feel what they feel: empathy. And it allows room to obtain the wisdom to care for their needs in all truth: Love.
You can’t change people, you need to try and change their perspective. How?
1. Build genuine relationships.
2. Let your actions and behavior speak for themselves.
3. Never encourage sin, but offer hope by encouraging others in the faith.
5. IF & when they give you permission to speak into their lives, then share the truth with them in love, wisdom and kindness.
KEY CONCEPT TO REMEMBER:
You will find that it’s more effective to challenge someone’s mindset than their actions. When you see someone living in sin or headed down a dangerous path, put down the stones, invest and help people see a different way. From God’s perspective.