Saturday, July 10, 2010

The wonder working power of Jesus' words

This summer I am walking with Jesus through the gospels. Every day, I read two to three chapters, then meditate and pray about the text. I want to know Christ in a deeper way ( Philippians 3:10). As I read I ask myself a few questions:
  • What is the text teaching me about Jesus?
  • What does it encourage me to start doing or stop doing?
  • What application does it have for discipleship?
For example, this morning I read through John 7: 53-8:1-11 about the woman caught in adultery. Biblical scholars question whether this event actually happened in the life of Jesus because it is absent from all of the oldest manuscripts. But there is nothing in it unworthy of sound doctrine. It seems best to view the story as something that probably happened during Jesus' ministry but that was not originally part of what John wrote in his Gospel. 

But what a great story of the power of forgiveness and the call to live in holiness. Here's a woman supposedly caught in the act of adultery. Of course one has to ask, "where was the man?" Why did they only bring the woman?

As they dragged her to Jesus, they quickly quoted from the Law of Moses that she should be stoned. They were not totally accurate in their use of Moses. Leviticus 20:10 says, "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." Once again, where was the man?

John makes it clear that their actions were not noble. They did not care about righteousness. The woman was a means to an end. They wanted to test Jesus. Would he uphold the law of Moses or would he compromise its teachings? 

Jesus did not answer their question. Instead he stooped low to the ground and wrote in the sand. Finally, he spoke powerful and wise words, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw at her." These words exposed their own sinfulness. It's possible that they were at one time guilty of adultery or some other sin.

One by one, her accusers dropped their stones and slinked away in embarrassment. Jesus and the woman are left alone with an assortment of rocks at their feet. In the end, Jesus does not condemn the woman's actions, neither does he condone them. He says to her, "Go and sin no more." 

People today take one of two approaches to sin. They are either quick to condemn and call for death to the sinner (This week the government of Iran has come under fire for wanting to stone a woman caught in adultery. Iran's top human rights official said the Islamic regime is reviewing a sentence of execution by stoning for a woman convicted of adultery), or in the name of tolerance there is no such thing as sin. Either option is very unloving and betrays a lack of understanding about holiness and the call to repentance. 

Jesus' treatment of this woman's condition provides definitive guidance on how to deal with those who are caught in sin. He does not deny that the woman committed adultery. He forgives her and then invites her into a new way of living. 

Guided by the Spirit of Christ and the words of Jesus, may we in the church be compassionate toward those who sin, yet courageous enough to call each member of the body of Christ to holiness.