Like the adulterous woman, all of us have sinned. We are all guilty. If we break one of God’s laws it is equivalent to breaking all of them. So, sin is a level playing field. None of us have the right to judge another because all of us have made mistakes. We should leave judgment in God’s hands—and His judgment was poured out on Jesus at the cross. Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery; Jesus is not condemning you. Jesus set her free from condemnation before He admonished her not to sin anymore.
Sinners hear a message of judgment over and over again from the church. They know they are doing wrong. But, a message of judgment never works to draw people closer to God. Joseph Prince points out that “preaching more of the Law to counteract sin is like adding wood to fire.” What people focus on is what they will be. Preach righteousness and people will be attracted to righteous. Preach the Law and people will be tempted to sin.
Preaching the Law can be tempting. Some ministers become legalistic because they want to clean up the sheep, and legalism looks like a shortcut to getting the sheep clean. In reality, legalism only makes people look clean temporarily. Grace is far more than outward behavior modification, it is inward transformation.
Another reason ministers often become legalistic is because they want to control people. Under grace, you can’t control people any longer. How does your church make people feel about God? Do they feel set free by God, or do they see God as controlling? Do they feel condemned by God, or do they feel more in love with God?