The Choice Not Given…
July 6, 2016
“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” —John 8:4b-5 (NIV)
I hate forced choice tests! You’ve probably done them before. They are common on standardized tests of all sorts including many of the psychological tests. Often they have the innocuous instruction “Choose the best answer.” Only problem is they don’t give you the best answer, they give you two equally offensive answers! Then they want to try to determine who you are based on these answers that in no way represent how you think or believe. They fail to give you the other options that better and more truly define who you are, what you believe and how you think.
Now, I understand that in testing, it is sometimes necessary to narrow the field and you get to “forced choices” that are equally unsatisfactory. But the problem is that we seem to have begun to live life that way. Our society and culture is becoming so fractured that it seems everything boils down to a forced choice in all areas of life: politics, religion, sexuality, culture and so much more. Often, we don’t even know what the hot buttons are for those offering up these choices and thereby create enemies (or at least adversaries) unaware simply by making the wrong choice in a false dichotomy.
Jesus knew what the questioners wanted. It was a choice between accepting the law as they understood it or rejecting it. Instead, He chose an alternative way, a way that affirmed God’s law but rejected humanity’s enforcement of the law…He chose grace and mercy instead of the forced choice that was being offered. He chose letting God be God and not the god humanity would have created. And in so doing, Jesus spared the life of the woman… and ultimately… of us all.
I wonder, how many times do I fall into the trap of limiting myself to the forced choices that life offers instead of taking the time to stoop down, draw in the sand and to look for the grace and mercy options? I wonder how often I settle for making false alliances by choosing an easy path instead of looking for the narrow path that truly represents my beliefs and values- the path where I discover Christ at work in my life and in the lives of others? I wonder how many people have been pummeled by stones I have allowed to be thrown just because I was afraid to reject the simple and simplistic choices presented to me?
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for settling for false dichotomies and lead me to discover your ways… to walk in paths of righteousness, mercy and grace. Lead me to discover the choices not presented to me in life, choices given by you in your mercy and grace. Amen.
Reverend Dr. Steve Van Ostran