In John 8:1-11, the Pharisees threw an adulterous woman to the ground at Jesus’ feet, hoping to condemn Him for not carrying out the Law of Moses. Would this rabbi act on Moses’ commandment that those caught in adultery are to be stoned? Jesus, however, defied their religious sensibilities. He not only had mercy on the woman, but also called out the hidden sins of the Pharisees who stood ready to brutally execute her. As they turned away, admitting silently that they were not without sin, the woman sat alone at the feet of the Master. Did she feel terror or comfort in that moment? She looked for the first time into the eyes of a sinless man. He alone had the right to kill her… but He did not.

Those that know Scripture know that every human has sinned and failed to live up to God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Jesus calls us to love freely and unconditionally, always forgiving offenses. This is a reflection of God’s own mercy toward us – despite our flaws and our sins toward Him, He loves us anyway, unconditionally. Not because of anything we’ve done (or even anything we could do at our best potential). Could we follow that example? Could we love someone and devote our lives to them, knowing that they cannot truly reciprocate?

This is what Jesus did for Judas.

Scripture makes it clear and plain that Jesus chose Judas deliberately, knowing beforehand that the man would betray Him (John 6:70). Knowing, however, did not stop Jesus from unconditionally loving Judas and training him up as a disciple. How could Jesus have loved Judas so, knowing full well that the man would sell him for a mere handful of silver? It couldn’t have been because Jesus hoped Judas would ultimately turn from his ways, because Jesus also knew that Judas would commit suicide before being redeemed. It certainly wasn’t because Jesus merely needed another follower, or because of any practical benefit Judas brought to the group dynamic.

The source of Christ’s love was much deeper than mere reciprocal affection or mutual benefit. It was not limited by fickle emotion or circumstance, as human love so often is. Jesus loved Judas unconditionally because He possessed the love of His Father, a deep love so enriching and overflowing that He does not need to be loved in return to love others. Judas was the ultimate example: if Christ can so readily forgive a man who sold Him to a horrible death in exchange for a few coins, despite having been an intimate friend for years, how much does He love all of His children? And why can’t we love and forgive others with the same abundant spirit? Whether or not the heinous sinners of this world have the capacity to change, Christ calls us to love them as He loved us, because authentic compassion is not something that can be bartered in exchange for reciprocated love. God loved all of us before we could even fathom returning His affection, and that’s the key to following His example.

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