john 8:1-11 is one of those stories we’ve all heard before.
the woman caught in adultery. the guys wanting to stone her. Jesus letting her go.
most people think the point of this story is that we shouldn’t judge people because all of us have sinned.
that’s true, but i think there’s more.
Jesus wasn’t only trying to remind the men that they were just as sinful as this woman. he wanted them to realize the grace they’d been shown in the past. they were just as guilty as she was, yet no one was throwing any stones at them.
so they run away, and it’s just Jesus and the woman left. now if i was her, and i had just heard that speech, i’d be terrified, because Jesus was perfect; unlike her accusers, he had every right to throw a couple stones. he could have sat there and taken her on a guilt trip all day if he wanted. but he doesn’t. he just tells her to put this behind her, change her life and go on.
because God doesn’t want us to wallow in shame when we mess up. he wants us to change.
the purpose of guilt is to show us that we’ve done something wrong and need to fix it. the woman in the story knew full well that she was wrong; those men had already made her feel plenty bad about it. Jesus didn’t like what she had done, but there was no need for him to say so because she knew that.
by letting her go, he wasn’t saying that what she’d done was okay; he was showing her that his grace was bigger than her sin. this is what loving the sinner while hating the sin is. Jesus hated what she’d done, and he never wanted her to do it again. but because he loved her, he gave her a chance to give up what he hated.
and even though we’re not told the rest of her story, i imagine being shown that much love gave her a lot more strength to “sin no more” than piling on more shame would have.
what do we get from all this?
1. helping someone learn how to go on differently is more important than showing them where they’ve messed up. chances are, they already know. the more defeated you make them feel, the less likely they are to change. let them see that there’s hope for the future instead of dragging them through their past.
2. our future is more important to God than our past. we can’t change what we’ve already done, but we can learn from it and not make the same mistake again. as soon as we’ve realized our sin, confessed it to God, and done whatever else is necessary to make up for it(like when we’ve hurt someone else), the pity party ends. get to work on living differently now, rather than beating yourself up about what’s behind you.
3. spread grace, not shame. this doesn’t mean the person you’re accusing is any less wrong; it simply means that God has shown you a lot of grace, so you should do the same. grace isn’t saying that what someone has done is okay. it’s saying that even though they’ve messed up really bad, they don’t have to stay that way.