In John 8 the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to the Lord. They knew the law and asked the Lord in a way to tempt Him, “Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such persons. What then do you say?” (v. 5). The Lord Jesus did not answer quickly. Again He was wise. A wise man does not do things quickly; he learns to be slowed down. The way the Lord “slowed down” was to stoop down and write with His finger on the ground (v. 6). This was a sign done by the Lord to teach the scribes the lesson of humility. They should not have stood up straight in a proud way. One might have proudly said, “I am a Pharisee. I know the law.” Another might have said, “I am a scribe, a doctor of the law.” The Lord Jesus stooped down to write something on the ground. Students of the Bible can only guess what He wrote. It may be that He was writing, “Who is without sin among you?” When they persisted in questioning Him, He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). This word touched their conscience.
When the Lord Jesus answered the Samaritan woman in John 4, He indicated to her that He was the very God incarnate and that the living water that she needed and that He would give her was the Spirit. The Lord’s answer to the scribes and Pharisees in John 8, although it was so simple, indicated that only One in this universe is without sin. Only Jesus is without sin. The Lord’s answer was wise, indicating that He was the only one who was qualified to condemn such a sinful woman. No one else, even the Pharisees who were self-righteous, dared to say they were without sin. When they heard this word, they slipped away, beginning with the older ones until the last (v. 9).
In this situation it did not matter whether the woman should be stoned or not. It was a matter of who is qualified. Only the Lord Jesus Himself is the One without sin. Today we may know so much of the Bible. We may know the spiritual regulations which may be used to condemn people. But actually, none of us is qualified to condemn anyone. When you are condemning others, you must realize that you also are sinful. Who can say they are without sin?
Quite often the sisters are more fine than the brothers. The finer ones always condemn the rough ones. Perhaps the husbands do not condemn as much as the wives do. Husbands suffer the fine condemnation from the wives. A wife may condemn her husband for having dirt on his tie. However, are you, the wife, without dirt? Very few people are accustomed to condemning themselves. We are all accustomed to condemning others. It is so easy for you to see others’ wrongdoings twice as well as your own. How many days in the past year have you criticized others? If there has been one day in which you never criticized anyone, you must be a unique person. You criticize your mother and father and anyone you see. You may criticize your relatives and even the elders. Whether you are fifteen or fifty years old, has there ever been anything you saw in others that you did not criticize? You may criticize whatever you see.
In the church life, we see each other every day. If it were possible to hide myself from seeing anyone, I would do it. The best way to save yourself from criticizing others is not to know so many things. For many years as I traveled to minister the Word, I was a guest in people’s houses. Often I was tempted to see what was in people’s homes. However, I did not do it, for I have learned the lesson. The outward man prefers to see, but the inward man says, “Don’t do that. That is not allowed. You have no right to look. If you look, you will have to make a thorough confession.” After being prohibited from looking in one place, I have turned around and been tempted to look in another place. Immediately I was stopped again. To know people’s secrets is a sin.
Whenever we are going to condemn or criticize others, we should be reminded that we are not the One who is without sin. Rather, we are one who is with sin, and we need that One who is without sin. He is our Savior. He is the only one without sin, and we need Him. Remembering this will spontaneously stop our criticism. Do not ask who is right and who is wrong. Only One is absolutely right. None of us has the right to say we are right. We are wrong, and we need the One who is right.
If there were no criticism in the church life, ninety percent of the deadening would be annulled. In the church life, there is always a certain deadening going on. We deaden others through our criticism. Even some of our children know how to criticize the speakers in a meeting, and they know how to criticize the elders. If we can get rid of the criticism in the church life, ninety percent of the deadening will be swallowed up by life.
The very God in John 4 who is Spirit and the very One in John 8 who is without sin is the Triune God embodied in Christ and come to us as life. It is not a matter of being right or wrong. It is altogether a matter of life, and there is only one who is life, Jesus Christ, who is the embodied God and the very One that is without sin. He is our need. He is the very God, He is the very life, and He is also the Spirit today. We need Him. If you would bring any questions to Him, He would not answer you “yes” or “no.” He would always remind you that you can never be right. In His eyes we are wrong in everything.
(Our Urgent Need - Spirit and Life, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)