When I was a little kid, my big brother Michael decided to teach me how to play chess. Why? Because he wanted someone to practice some fancy new chess moves he had learned. Teaching his bratty little sister chess turned out to be no easy feat since I kept getting the moves for the horsie and the castle confused. But the real struggles came when we started playing the game and I’d make a stupid move. You see Michael knew he could beat me in three moves which left him with a choice. Do I laugh at her stupidity, beat her soundly and watch her stomp away never to play chess with me again or do I tell her to put the piece back and look around the board so she can learn from her mistake? Michael had to decide which was more important: being right or keeping me playing the game.
Jesus had a tough choice one day. He was sitting around the temple courts teaching when some bad guys brought before him a women they had caught in adultery. The law said that she should be stoned to death but they wanted to know what Jesus thought should be done with her.
You see Jesus had a choice. This woman had made a stupid move. She had broken God’s law. These bad guys were right and she was wrong. So Jesus could agree and concede that she should be stoned, but if He chose that path any opportunity to impact this woman’s life would be gone. The other choice was to choose to keep playing the game; to give this woman the opportunity to see the big picture- to see she has a loving God who sent her a Savior. So Jesus decided to make being right less important than being merciful.
In John 8:7 Jesus told the crowd “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one the people threw down their stones and walked away. Jesus not only gave the adulterous woman the chance to see the path of her life, He gave everyone in the crowd a chance to see a hint of the darkness in their own lives.
What about you? Do you know anyone that’s made a stupid move? Maybe it’s a friend, co-worker or even a family member. There’s no question in anyone’s mind that they were wrong but the question is how invested are you in being right? Do you think about what consequences they deserve for their wrong or do you think about ways to show them mercy like Jesus did the adulterous woman? Do you want to find ways to encourage them, help them, lift them up? Or do you hope for new ways to show them AGAIN how wrong they were?
Maybe Jesus wants us to treat those around us like we’re teaching them to play chess: only it’s not about catching them making a stupid move, it’s just about keeping them playing the game.