I recently heard a sermon about a story from the Bible that I had heard many times before…but for some reason I saw the story in a new light. Maybe I am more in tune with the spirit speaking to me, maybe it’s that I’m further along in my walk with God, or maybe it was the way in which the story was presented in this particular sermon. Maybe it was all three. I love that the word of God is a living book full of wisdom that comes to us in different seasons as the Holy Spirit sees that we need them. It’s exciting to me to sit down and study and see a fresh meaning in something I’ve read over and over. The story was from the book of John…the story of the woman who had been caught -in the act caught- in adultery. The Pharisees dragged the woman, naked, to the temple, into a large crowd. Caught in the act…dragged away…into a large crowd of people. I can’t even imagine the fear and shame that this woman felt. And I’m sorry, but where was the man? Why was he not included in this public judgment. She wasn’t alone in her adultery. Am I right? So the Pharisees make yet another lousy attempt to “trick” Jesus with one of their questions. John 8:5 says, “The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” You would think that these guys would learn that Jesus always had an answer. But before he spoke, he bent down and started writing in the dust with his finger. How had I missed this detail so many times before? What was he writing? What was this poor, scared woman thinking as he was doodling in the dirt? The preacher in this sermon I was listening to suggested that perhaps he was writing all of things that these men had done in their past. That makes sense, right? I mean Jesus would know. Like he was almost saying “Alright, boys, if you want to go there we can…but here’s what I know about you…” I love the way Jesus dealt with these guys. Finally he stands up and says “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” John 8:7 I would like to think that at this point he’s looking at them, then kind of looking back to what he’d written in the dirt, the looking at them again, almost daring them to challenge him. (I do not claim to be a theologian- just my take on it). As he stoops back down to write some more, the woman’s accusers starting leaving the scene, one by one until they were all gone. And then Jesus looked at her and asked “Didn’t any of your accusers condemn you? Neither do I! Go and sin no more.” Neither do I. Imagine what it would be like to hear Jesus say those words to you. Neither do I. I have been spending time with a very special group of ladies. They are such a blessing to me, and I learn so much from them as we all struggle through our own issues. The one common theme lately is that we are all afraid of what other people think. None of us like the feeling of being judged. I think that’s why these words of Jesus’ are so powerful to me at this point in life. Jesus teaches a powerful lesson to someone who seemingly “deserves” to be judged….that he does NOT condemn her. His love covers her weakness and his love is all that she needed in that moment. We need to learn from this that no one on this earth is blameless and without sin, therefore no one can condemn us. And neither does Jesus. He died so that we can live righteously. Romans 8:1 says “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” In that moment, this woman found out that she belonged to Christ. We belong to him. That’s such an amazing but sometimes difficult fact. We (and yes, I’m talking to me mostly) need to remember that we belong to him – when we feel the judgment of others – we are his. Their judgments do not matter. “The one” who was without sin in this story…the one who he said to throw the first stone…that one was him. He was “the one” without sin…but did he throw it? Did he condemn her? Did he judge her? He is all that matters.
Recently I made a day trip to Columbus to attend a workshop for school (people who think that teachers don’t work in the summer are wrong). As I was driving home enjoying the quiet of the car I noticed a GIANT billboard that read, “If you died today, do you know where you would end up?” Less than a mile later was another GIANT billboard that read, “Hell is for real.” I thought about these obnoxious signs most of the way home and for several days since. Now, before I go any further, let me say that yes, I do believe that hell is real and that it is serious, etc. That debate is not my purpose here. Continue reading