First Stone or Second Chance?

Bible Reading:
Marriage, Divorce, and Sexual Relations Deuteronomy 5:18; 21:10-14; 22:5,13-24; 23:17-18; 24:1-5; Leviticus 18:1-20,23-30; 19:20-22,29; 20:11-21,24; Numbers 5:11-31

"If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel" (Deut. 22:22).

According to the Law of Moses, death was the deserved punishment of the adulterous woman whom the Pharisees brought to Jesus (Jn. 8). Instead of enforcing her sentence, however, the very one who had authored the law reached beyond justice to extend mercy. Without reducing God's holiness by discounting her offense, he highlighted God's incredible grace by delivering her from sin's trap and giving her hope for a new life. He implored her accusers to examine their own hearts before passing judgment on another's. "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (Jn. 8:7).

Jesus could have pointed to each one of her accusers, looked them in the eye, and named their sins out loud. Instead, he stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger, giving them time to ponder his words and let their own memories convict them. One by one, they lowered their heads, dropped their stones, and walked away in silence, until the only one left in the woman's presence was the only one who had any right to throw the first stone. But this sinless one held no stones in his hands. Instead of giving her what her sin deserved, he gave her what her broken soul desired--a fresh start. "Has no one condemned you?" he asked. "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin" (Jn. 8:10-11).

We no longer throw stones at such women, as they did in those days.... Or do we? Do our words, glances and attitudes deliver just as heavy a blow? Do we self-righteously "purge the evil" from our presence as we drive hurting people farther away from the only one who can truly purge evil from anyone's life? If this woman stepped inside a church today, would she experience judgment and condescension, or would she find hope and healing there? Would there be finger pointing, whispering, gossiping, judgmental glances and self-righteous stares, or would she be embraced, supported and loved? Would she be shunned, ignored, despised and rejected, or would she be accepted, heard, understood and forgiven? Would some feel compelled to make sure she knew how sinful and shameful her actions were, as if she didn't already know, or would she be shown grace and mercy? Would those who have never fallen in that way feel spiritually superior, while minimizing or denying their own sins and struggles? Would we acquaint her with a strict rule book, or would we introduce her to the author of an amazing love story and allow him to convict, console and counsel her?

Do we hold the Bible up like a mirror as we earnestly seek to know and reflect Jesus, or do we hold it out like a magnifying glass as we attempt to highlight the faults of others? Do we point to their sins or do we point to Jesus, who alone can give power and victory over sin as we draw close to him? The law was given to make us "conscious of sin" and "accountable to God" so that we would know how to love; it introduced a "better hope... by which we draw near to God" (Mt. 7:12; 22:37-40; Rm. 3:19-20; 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14; Heb. 7:19).

As we ponder God words, are we willing to allow his Spirit to reveal and heal the harmful tendencies in each of our hearts? We all deserve to die for our sin; yet Jesus died in our place as a demonstration of his great love for us (Rm. 5:8; 6:23; Jn. 3:16). Instead of casting scorn and disapproval at those who are "looking for love in all the wrong places," as the songwriter put it, let us drop our stones, join hands, and together discover the only wholly satisfying source of authentic love - in its very author, who is faithfully and patiently writing his love on the sands of our hearts.