“What matters is that you are sincere” sounds like good advise, and it is, as we shall see in a moment. But it can also be the worst advise to give anyone. God does, indeed, want us to be sincere about what we do. A common dictionary definition of sincere is “free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings”. It is wrong to be pretentious and deceitful. We must always strive to be genuine, honest, in other words, sincere. Integrity.
But what if being true to who we are involves doing something that is hurtful and unkind and unloving? What if I genuinely don’t care about the homeless and the sick? Should I be sincere even then? Would it be pretentious to “do” caring things to such people because that is “the right thing to do”? Such questions lead us to something that often goes un-examined when we talk about “being sincere”: It matters what we are being sincere about. In other words, our personal feelings are not the ultimate standard of what is right or wrong. We are not automatically doing right just because we are doing what we feel like doing. There seems to be a standard of right or wrong, outside of our feelings.
It is a familiar passage. One that almost every Christian has become well acquainted with. A woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus, to serve as bait. The pharisees and the scribes wanted to see if Jesus is going to break the Law of Moses. He seems to have broken too many laws by now. Working (healing) on Sabbath, eating and drinking with sinners… among others. Somehow, he has managed to cleverly get himself out of their entrapment tricks. But this is a big one. To speak against a law that required capital punishment would be outright heresy. There is no way that Jesus was possibly going to get himself out of this one. The law was black and white on adultery. Jesus had to agree with the law on this one:
They said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.