Unless you have been asleep for the past week, it would be impossible to miss the academic scandal news. Celebrities have been caught lying and buying their children’s way into certain universities. Coaches, school officials, and test administrators have been fired for taking bribes of five and six figures. Some will face huge fines while others will be sent to jail. Many of their children will leave school either voluntarily or through suspension. Most are “holed up” in their homes away from the public eye. Friends are keeping their distance. As one of them was quoted, “We are living our worst nightmare!”

Danny Minton

Danny Minton

What they did was definitely wrong. There will be trials and lawyers and judges and juries for months to come. There will be some punishments. There has been public embarrassment. That’s the way it is when we do things that are contrary to good morals, even in a world full of sin at every turn. People should be responsible when they break the laws whether physical or moral.

But there is another group of people that have entered the picture. It’s a group of people who feel they must throw out hate mail and verbal abuse to those who have been caught up in the scandal. Blogs, emails, Twitter accounts, newspaper articles and the like are bombarding those who have erred. They have even been directed at some of the students who had no idea what their parents did to help them. Hate mail, hate speech, demeaning accusations and degrading of individuals has plastered the social media waves.

The Gospel of John tells the story of a woman who had committed adultery. By law her punishment was death. She was dragged before Jesus by a group of men demanding that Jesus be her judge. Jesus looked at her, then at the crowd. He stooped down and scribbled something in the sand. He looked at the faces of those in the crowd and gave them a challenge, “Let the one of you who is without sin cast the first stone.” Slowly the crowd dispersed from the oldest to the youngest as each must have searched his heart and could not say he had never sinned. As he stood up, he asked the woman, “Is there no one left to condemn you?” When she responded that no one was there, he looked at her and with compassion said, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

I don’t agree with what the people did to get their kids in school. I don’t agree with taking bribes to change the rules. Neither do I agree with the attitude of hate and rudeness expressed toward those who have done wrong. We all have done things we are not proud of and hope that no one ever knows about them. None of us are perfect. As Paul wrote, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Our sins may not be the same, but they are still sin.

Jesus gave the example that we love people and treat them decently even when they have sinned. I’ve seen too many people berated by “non-perfect” people. Social media has become a place to be hateful from the privacy of our own homes. We have become judge and jury condemning people without mercy from our one-way conversations. Our accounts with anonymous nicknames can blast people without their even knowing who is sending them.

Being Christlike is more than being like Jesus for the hour or two we spend on Sunday morning. Being Christlike means being like Jesus in every walk of life, at home, at school, at work, in the privacy of a chatroom or the sending of a message through various forms of media. It also means that when a person has paid their dues for their mistakes that we show mercy and forgiveness and not disdain and hate.

If you have never done anything wrong and embarrassing in your life, then go ahead and post your judgments. However, if like those men holding the stones, you find yourself with a rock in your hand and remember your past wrongs, let it go. Express the same attitude of Jesus, “Neither do I condemn you.”

Hate can never take foothold if love is there first.

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ

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