Like many of you, I was glued to the news last week awaiting the announcement of a verdict in the case of Casey Anthony, who was accused of murdering her two-year-old daughter, Caylee. The case has garnered gobs of media attention, and Casey has been described as a negligent mom who likes to party at best, and at worst—a mom responsible for killing her own brown-eyed baby girl.
When I heard the jury’s verdict that Casey was not guilty, I felt unsatisfied. A “not guilty” verdict doesn’t feel much like justice. My mind raced with thoughts of how very much I want to make the rules, and how I want someone to pay a steep price when something bad happens. Then, I found myself thinking about a woman long ago who actually was found guilty:
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They . . . said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ . . . Jesus said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ . . . At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin’” (John 8:3–11, emphasis added).
According to Old Testament law, the crowd had every right to stone this woman to death. She had been caught in sin after all. But thankfully, God is a God of mercy as well as a God of justice.
The adulterous woman wasn’t the only one Jesus was merciful to. He also spared the crowd. The stones they were carrying were too heavy for them. They couldn’t bear the weight of enforcing the law on others, and Jesus knew it. So, He reminded them of their own crimes and freed them to leave the enforcement of justice (and mercy) up to Him.
Another individual who was a recipient of Jesus’ mercy was the apostle Paul, who hunted down Christians and ordered their executions (Acts 8:1-3). Our human minds would reason that he deserved punishment; he was responsible for the deaths of numerous saints, after all. Instead, God chased Paul down, forgave him, and outlined His plan to use Paul as “a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Imagine if believers refused to accept Paul because they were tripped up by their ideas about how justice should have been served to him.
Then there’s the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet. The rest of the dinner guests thought she deserved to be shunned because of her former lifestyle, but Jesus was interested in seizing an opportunity to demonstrate grace.
In the case of Casey Anthony, the verdict has been a reminder to me that the world isn’t mine to judge. I serve a God of justice and He will deal with the sin that permeates each of our lives. When I forget this and pick up stones, God sweetly urges me to drop them and walk in the freedom that comes from knowing His gavel will never condemn me because I am covered by His grace.
A couple of caveats:
- While God’s version of justice might not always line up with our idea of it, that doesn’t mean justice has not been served.
- While this post focuses on how we as individuals are not to judge others, the government has a biblical mandate to mediate justice and punish evildoers. As citizens, we should all use God-ordained means to stand against injustice and defend the victimized and oppressed, reforming our systems of justice if and when they fail.
But let Casey Anthony’s story be a reminder that the consequences for sin aren’t ours to dole out, and that we have been spared by a God whose grace is undeserved.
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).
“The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love” (Ps. 33:5).