The gospel frees us from the bondage of religious institution and presents an option to love people first. Jesus lived this with passion all the way to the cross. I believe we also have the choice to love first.
Once there was a woman brought to Jesus. The religious leaders, in an effort to prove a point, had pulled her from a bed in an adulterous act and presented her to die. The law and religious rules of the day called for her to be stoned, so people had their rocks in hand to kill this woman. Jesus politely started writing on the ground, and then said, “OK, the one without a sin throw first.”
No stones were thrown, even though these leaders thought they had the law on their side. Not one stone was thrown. Jesus turned the moment from pious religious rules to self awareness of grace, and each person with a stone dropped it and walked away. I think maybe because they realized life is all grace. Then that grace standing in front of this woman is given to her. The system failed, but life was given.
Peter was not in the best place to be a leader. He had denied Christ in public. His mistakes and fear were out in the open. He was a failure. This denial was only proof that a fisherman should not have been chosen any way.
In fact, most of the disciples were misfits and ignorant according to cultural standards. In Acts 4 it states that Peter is unlearned, not taught, less than a scholar, but Jesus chose him. Jesus saw Peter and invited him into leadership. Invited him into the story of the Kingdom.
The thief hung on the cross, condemned, and Jesus right then and there freed him and invited him into the Kingdom. “This day you will be with me.”
There were no religious rituals, no laws, no ceremony, just Jesus and his overwhelming love for that guilty man next to him.
We are free today to choose people. We are free to believe that a person is worth giving our lives for, that we can sacrifice and give all we have for the good of another. The power of our gospel sits in this freedom.
I pray today that you receive the overwhelming love of another and that you give the same. We love because he first loved us.
Leroy Barber is Global Executive Director of Word Made Flesh and a participant in Sojourners’ “Emerging Voices” project.