Unexpected Togetherness | Gentle Reverence | Disruptive Compassion
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 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. 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.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
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. 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.”
Many of us have experienced times in our lives when other people have sought to show us about God in ways that were not effective. Sometimes these moments occurred through attempts at fear to drive us towards repentance or else through attempts to browbeat us into conforming to the other person’s viewpoint. Rather than attempting to teach people in this manner, the Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:15 to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” When we seek to teach or learn about the Christian life, tenderness tends to go much further than harshness for a variety of reasons. As you think about those who have helped you on your journey of faith, what qualities have defined their style of instruction? How can you model these qualities in your own life?
This passage shows a moment in Jesus’ ministry, where he showed a deep level of compassion to a woman who had no reason to expect gentleness in her life. According to the Law of Moses, when two people were caught committing adultery, they should both be put to death by being stoned. While from our perspective this punishment does not seem to fit the crime, the Israelites believed that in order to remain a pure people before God certain sins needed to be purged from the community through the shedding of blood.
Jesus’ response to the gathered people is to turn aside from the sin of the woman and instead ask those who sought to bring bloodshed if any among them is without sin that they might be the one to begin the execution. The people respond by leaving the temple courts until only Jesus and the adulterous woman are left.
As Christians, God calls us to work alongside Him in reaching out to all people. Following the example that Jesus gives to us of gentleness in approaching those who we believe to be in the wrong, tends to be much more effective than attempting to force someone to confront their own errors. This process, though, is not always easy to accomplish.
In order to truly grow in our relationship with God, we must be open to both the truth of the Gospel message while also relying on the grace that God gives us as redeemed people. Many of us tend to find ourselves leaning towards one of these more than the other, which can provide difficulties in both our growth as Christians, as well as, in the ways that we approach people who desire to know more about God.
As a church, Peachtree strives to live lives of gentle reverence to God. We do this through our teaching in Sunday School classes and small groups, in our worship life, in our missional outreaches, and in countless other ways that help us to grow together as a church and as individuals.
Lord God, you call us to live lives full of grace that are also rooted in the truth of your desire for us to be your children. We thank you for the opportunities that you have provided for us that we might grow ever closer to you and to those who you have called to be your church. We thank you for the blessing of the Gospel that shows us both your unending grace for us as well as the truth of conviction found in your Word. Help us to work alongside of you with the gentle spirit of a child and the reverent conviction of faith to share in your mission of restoration. In Christ’s name we pray; amen.