Mercy or Punishment?

April 3, 2022

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” —John 8:7
One of the arguments against capital punishment is the rhetorical question, “Why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong?” There is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime, and it certainly doesn’t help someone grow into the fullness of who they might become if they were treated with compassion and understanding. Jesus’ ability to see a bigger picture than a list of laws and punishments meant that the woman caught in adultery would have the chance to live and grow into the woman God hoped she would become.
Would killing her prevent other people from committing adultery? Probably not—and it would snuff out all the potential in her to be a bright light in her world and a witness to the power of forgiveness. No one in that crowd knew all the life circumstances that led her to that moment in time. They judged her for one specific action, with no understanding of what came before. Jesus’ response of mercy instead of punishment was much more likely to lead to a “positive clinical outcome” both for her and hopefully for those looking on (some of whom had likely committed adultery before too). Just as he did with the tax collector Zacchaeus, Jesus shows people are more likely to respond to love, acceptance, and forgiveness than to haranguing, intolerance, or condemnation.

FOR REFLECTION: Do you jump to judgment about someone in your life? Pray that God opens your mind and heart to respond with more understanding, compassion, and mercy for what has shaped them and made them act as they do.
TO PRAY: Jesus, you always chose mercy over rule-following. Help me to do the same.