There they stood – their presence bringing with them a sense of impending doom, their eyes screaming with judgment and their words laced with condemnation. There was a woman with them, a look of sheer terror on her face. One of the men threw her in front of the crowd that had gathered, directed his gaze at Jesus, and with words sharper than a sword, he pointed at the woman and said, “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?!” Jesus looked over at the woman. Tears were beginning to stream down her face as she sat there. Her shame overcoming her like an impending tidal wave. He turned to look at the group of people that were surrounding Him, their eyes wide, waiting for Him to make His move. He turned back to face this woman, bent down, and began to write in the dirt with His finger. The crowd began to whisper, the anticipation of what was about to conspire, electrifying them. The Pharisees continued to hammer Jesus with their judgments, desperately trying to display their intelligence of the Law, and that’s when He stood up. He faced these Pharisees and boldly said, “Let any one of you who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her.” The crowd immediately grew silent, stunned by His response. The Pharisees, with anger and disdain written all over their faces, retreated in defeat. The woman left on the ground looked up at the man that had just saved her life. Jesus walked over to her, bent down and gently asked her, “Has no one condemned you?” She sat there, shockingly confused and overcome with deep gratitude, whispered, “No one, Sir.” He held out His hand, and with a tender smile, helped this woman to her feet. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared, “Go now, and leave this life of shame behind you.”
The story of John 8, verses 2 – 11, displays an act of courage and love wrapped up in a single gift of grace, hand-delivered by Jesus Himself. Jesus not only exudes great courage in front of the Pharisees and the crowd of people around Him, but he shows enormous grace to everyone involved in this story.
In that day, the job of a Pharisee was to uphold the Jewish law. They would separate themselves from townspeople to ensure that they did not become “unclean”. Their belief was that in order to be close to God, you had to uphold the Ten Commandments; you had to follow the Law. It was more about rules and regulations than it was about the condition of your heart. You get the picture that these guys weren’t exactly the most welcoming sort, and that’s putting it lightly. This explains their growing frustration with Jesus, who defied the Law with His love. The Pharisees were shocked by Jesus’ response in verse 7 because it didn’t make sense! The Law stated to stone women who had committed such an act of betrayal, so the Pharisees could not wrap their minds around why Jesus would respond with such grace.
What I love most about Jesus’ response is He doesn’t show an ounce of disrespect toward the Pharisees. He simply stands up, says His peace, and then goes about His business. He challenged their thinking respectfully and did not give back to them the anger that each of them held. In return, they retreated, shell-shocked, leaving the woman left unharmed. What I feel most people miss in this story, is that Jesus not only extended grace to the adulteress, but He extended grace to the very people who were pointing their finger at Him. Jesus made the choice to respond with love – still going to war with their thinking – but doing so gracefully.
I have the tendency to charge full steam ahead, reacting immediately when someone challenges me disrespectfully. If I’m being honest with myself and with you, my response tends to not be so graceful! I get angry, I get offended, and I fight back, fueled by that anger. My words are logical, my argument stands quite well, but there is no love to be found in my reaction. So I can only imagine the colorful words that would’ve come out of my mouth had those Pharisees approached me in front of that crowd. How dare they be so arrogant and self-righteous! Well, friends, that’s definitely not how we see Jesus respond in this story.
I’ve been very convicted lately that Warriors with a whole lot of fight, but no love, are not Warriors at all. Jesus is the ultimate Warrior who endured the biggest fight ever known to mankind – the fight of death versus life, evil versus good, love versus hate. He literally gave up His own life by being beaten and put to death on a cross, so that we can have true freedom in Him. This was not just done out of bravery, it was driven by Love.
Jesus extended love to these Pharisees by choosing to extend grace and not to react out of anger. He had every right as the Son of God to give those guys a piece of His holy mind! He made the choice not to because He understood something that those Pharisees never could – The urge to be right is never worth the absence of love. Reacting out of anger to prove your point is not extending grace. I absolutely agree that we should always stand up for ourselves and for others, but we should do it in a way that displays Jesus’ grace.
I imagine that Jesus’ calm demeanor and respectful tone made the Pharisees’ choice to walk away just a little easier. The Pharisees were already irate, so had Jesus responded in anger, I imagine that the desire to stone this poor woman would’ve only grown. Jesus diffused the situation by choosing to look through the lens of love. Because of His choice, the woman accused was set free. She was picked up off the ground by her Savior and given a fresh start. Jesus’ grace covered everyone in this story!
My challenge to us as Warriors is to Love Boldly. Loving Boldly means always standing up for what is right, but doing so in a way that leaves traces of His love all over the situation. We are to put on our glasses of grace and make the choice to look through His lens of love, despite the anger that may be swelling inside us. We should be bringing our anger to Him because he understands, and He’s the only one who can give us the perspective of love and grace. Loving Boldly means never allowing someone to step over your boundaries, but reacting with respect. Loving Boldly means remaining firm, but not picking up the sword of anger. Loving Boldly means recognizing that extending grace, when you want to extend malice, shows great strength.
Once the race of life has been run, and we find ourselves standing in awe, face to face with our Creator, He’s going to have one question for us. It’s not going to be how much money we made or how successful our careers were. He’s not going to be impressed with how well we knew of His ministry. He’s going to look at us and ask, “Did you learn to love?”
So the next time someone points their finger at you, throwing their offense your way, remember this –
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger,
brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Be Kind and Compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children
and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave
Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”