When I was a child I wanted to pitch in Little League. I would stand in the backyard and throw at a target for hours on end. When my dad came home from work, he would catch for me. The problem was that I thought that an eight year old should be able to pitch like Bob Feller and I couldn’t. When the ball sailed over my dad’s head or out of reach to his right or left, I grew angry with myself. The maturity I needed (more mental than physical) to be a good eight year old pitcher just wasn’t there. Try as he might, my father couldn’t convince me that it was neither a blot against my character nor my value as a human being that my fastball ended up in the shrubs.
It took many years before it sunk in that life wasn’t a test to prove oneself worthy of existence. God’s reasons for creating us are radically mysterious. The best that we can say is that God acts out of love. Having said that, we have to acknowledge that it’s a love that we couldn’t muster on our best day.
Adultery is no laughing matter. It can destroy marriages, families, lives and harm communities. That’s why ancient law, especially law rooted in nomadic culture, was quick and decisive about the issue. It was a big deal. Yet Jesus looked at the woman about to be executed for this behavior, loved what he saw and rescued her. The issue wasn’t that adultery was a minor crime nor was it that the woman, not the man, was to be executed. That reads our issues back into the situation. The point of the story is that God’s relationship with us isn’t about obedience, reward or punishment. It’s about the gift and promise of human joy. God never gives up on that promise to us – never places the human future second to some other consideration.
Human value doesn’t come from throwing a 103 mph fastball, obeying all the Ten Commandments, having the highest MCAT score, the best behaved kids or the biggest dossier of public service in town. Human value comes from the simple fact that the Creator has decided that each of us is worth creating and sticking by. That’s an astounding and unfathomable compliment.
We strive to view ourselves and everyone else from the perspective of that divine judgment. Only when we can do this this will we share the most basic aspect of how Jesus viewed life.