Tag Archive: woman caught in sin


a maze in grace

there is a well-known story of a woman who is brought before Jesus for committing adultery.

the crowd and the religious leaders are bloodthirsty and ready to stone her [they have even selected their weapons of choice] when Jesus intervenes and turns the whole circus court on its head and the crowd melts away until it is just Jesus and the woman.

“Has anyone condemned you?”

“No? Well then neither do I.”

And we love this story. We drink it up. We preach great sermons on grace and forgiveness and ask the pointed questions of, “Well where was the man cos surely it takes two people to…”

 

i was thinking this evening about ‘obedience’ – it’s a much harder sell, isn’t it?

it feels like ‘obedience’ has been locked away with all the negative manipulationary ways of ‘getting people to follow Jesus’ like the warning about hell and damnation if you don’t… no, today we have to invite people into a relationship. and there needs to be a strong emphasis on grace.

“Has anyone condemned you?”

“No? Well then neither do I.”

 

the idea of obedience has been bouncing around in my mind over the last few years, never too seriously to do too much about in terms of speaking or writing about it, but just from time to time it raises its head as something we should perhaps be taking more seriously.

we call Jesus King don’t we? or Lord? Lord of our lives. Master… teacher… rabbi… the one we follow.

‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’ [Luke 9.23]

it’s kinda there in the contract.

which too many people have watered down in the name of a badly defined grace at times.

because while there is the lack of condemnation exchange between Jesus and the woman, that is not where it ends.

there is also the call to ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’

which in essence is the call to obedience.

to God-following-ness.

to deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me.

 

you see, it IS about grace – the gift is absolutely free, so that no one can boast.

but the acceptance of the gift initiates the call to obedience, which costs absolutely everything.

and ‘complete surrender to God’ [His ways, His plan for our lives, His kingdom] is something that we just don’t talk about enough these days

maybe [we’re all too busy fighting about the definition of ‘a real man’?]

so we can get tripped up by our incessant grasping of this idea of grace as we’ve imagined it to be, as opposed to what it actually is

 

a free gift into a life of obedience, following a holy and awesome God who is completely worthy of that type of commitment

what are your thoughts on obedience? and what it means in the life of one who follows Jesus?

 

 

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aslan“I have come,” said a deep voice behind them. They turned and saw the Lion himself, so bright and real and strong that everything else began at once to look pale and shadowy compared with him.” [C.S. Lewis ‘The Silver Chair’]

There is a crowd. A mob, if you will. Kind of gives the imagery to me [internally at least] of the angry townsfolk armed with flaming torches and pitchforks storming the castle seeking the Frankenstein monster. Nothing can get in their way. Because they are an angry mob.

And so it is with this poor woman. Who, like the Frankenstein monster, is never given a name [Frankenstein was the name of the doctor who created him]. And like the monster, has been turned into this creature of shame, who has committed this evil act and must be brutally killed.

Enter Jesus, stage left…

John 8. 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I suspect we lose a lot of the story by not being able to fully relate to or comprehend the times this was set in. Public stoning of adulterers is not something we have too much of an understanding of. And we know this is a trap to try and take down Jesus [and, as in the way Jesus deals with every attempt that is brought His way, we see His Aslan’ness – He is safe, but not tame – every single time the person who set the trap slinks away with their tail between their legs, shamed and caught out].

What I really enjoy about this story is like the opening Lewis quote – Jesus commands the attention of the crowd but not by loud noise or big action – simply by His Presence. You quickly get the feeling that all eyes are on Him. And then He slows it all down by asking the question that stops them all in their tracks. And then by bending down to write some mystery words on the ground.

One thing this does is it takes the crowd’s attention away from the woman caught in sin. And directs people’s attention to their own hearts. Oh wait, that’s me. Whoops. Oh dear. Um… cheque please!

One interesting thing I just now picked up on [and it is possibly more an internal thing than external, although you may have been able to visualise this to some extent if you were there] is how the posture is reversed. The woman is brought in shamed, face down, slinking in and humiliated while the crowd and the accusers stand tall and defiant, feeling justified and ready to catch this Jesus guy.

Then there is an encounter with Aslan Jesus. It is quiet. And gentle. And direct.

Suddenly the crowd are quiet. Their heads are bowed down. They are the ones slinking away, one by one. Their shame has been made apparent. Then Jesus puts the attention back on the woman, now that it is only Him and her. God’s gaze is fixed on the broken, trembling creation. He speaks words of life to her. Words that restore her dignity. And direct her towards a better way of living. And she walks away head up, confident, feeling loved and restored and feeling the hope that a second chance holds out.

What is really powerful about this story echoes the dual nature of the lion in the Narnia series – good, but not tame.

what might Jesus have writtenThere is a statement that God loves you so very much, no matter what you’ve done or where you currently are at in life.

There is a statement that God loves you so very much, that He refuses to let you settle for being in that place when there is a better place to be.

So I love you completely but go and sin no more. I created you for so much more than this. Keep walking with Me and drawing on the power of My Spirit and you will continue to be changed and grown towards the perfect creation I intended you to become.

[To read the next part on Enough being Enough, click here]

Colossians 3 verse 13 reads, ‘Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’

i am not convinced that ‘forgive and forget’ is a biblical concept altho many people quote it as if it is… for me the idea that God has forgiven my sin and then developed some kind of universal amnesia is a lot less exciting than the picture of a God who although He remembers and knows the various ways i have let Him down and hurt other people [both by what i have done and also by that which i have failed to do] chooses to not hold that against me and loves and treats me as if those things never happened.

the next time i mess up, he doesn’t bring out the list and remind me that this is simply one more time that i have failed Him.

the enemy does. through guilt and the wagging finger of ‘you’re no good! this is who you are! the sin defines you!’ he will point and prod and constantly bring up failures from the past to try and let this be the one that keeps you down.

and i do. one of the biggest ways in which we punish when we ‘forgive’ is to bring up all the crud from the past and wave it in the person’s face who has just wronged us as if to say with the enemy, ‘this is who you are. i knew you’d mess up again. you just can’t help it can you?’ which, when you take time to think about it is truly horrible. to be honest, a lot of it feels like self-protection – a wrong has been committed and if i can’t prove how and why this is your fault then i am going to have to take responsibility that it might just be mine.

a while back i looked at how my yes can sound very much like a no [which is about as helpful as receiving a no and possibly even worse] and i think this statement of ‘Forgive without punishing’ aligns itself closely alongside that idea. if i forgive you, but you feel like crap as a result of it, then i may need to relook at whether i have forgiven you at all.

i am reminded of Jesus and the woman caught in sin in John 8.1-11 which ends:

‘Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”’

This story has both the lack of condemnation as well as the call to live a better life. She doesn’t leave feeling like her sin was ok, but she also doesn’t leave feeling condemned at all and in the context of the whole story it is the act of Jesus’ compassion that you feel will stick with her more than any focus on the sin.

So, forgive and forget? Not so sure. But forgive and do not continue to hold it against. Forgive and in the moment of forgiveness let them walk away with the understanding of Love and Grace and Mercy and not condemnation or guilt. Forgive and choose to seek positive relationship with. Forgive and remember to examine your heart and actions for the areas where you might need to be forgiven.

That original verse comes in the middle of two others which i feel fit so well together so let us end with that, and as i look to forgive without punishing, may i seek to always remember what it looks like when God forgives me, and may my forgiveness always be bound together in Love:

‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.’ [Colossians 3.12-14]

to continue to the promise without forgetting way, go here.

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