But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,Matthew 5:44(AMP)
We read the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery and we feel bad for her. Like she was being picked on and Jesus showed her mercy. We feel bad that she was probably embarrassed and ashamed. We think the Pharisees that brought her out into the middle of the court are being awful people. But let’s for just a minute, reread this story from the point of view of the man’s wife, or the woman’s husband that is currently being cheated on.
“Now the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand in the center of the court, 4 and they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women [to death]. So what do You say [to do with her—what is Your sentence]?” 6 They said this to test Him, hoping that they would have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and began writing on the ground with His finger. 7 However, when they persisted in questioning Him, He straightened up and said, “He who is without [any] sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Then He stooped down again and started writing on the ground. 9 They listened [to His reply], and they began to go out one by one, starting with the oldest ones, until He was left alone, with the woman [standing there before Him] in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She answered, “No one, Lord!” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]” John 8:3-11
If I was the woman of a cheating husband, I would want justice for their sins. I joke that only the woman was there because the wife had already killed the man. Honestly, I’d probably start catching stuff on fire. (If you know me, you know I’m only partially joking). In Deuteronomy 22, the law that these Pharisees are talking about does indeed say that if caught, both the man and the woman should be stoned. They’re doing what they’ve been told to do. I bet the wife’s friends were standing in the crowd, just eagerly waiting to cast a stone. I bet the man’s wife was looking for the heaviest rock she could lift. And we wouldn’t even blame her. She was wronged. Hell hath no fury like a woman scoured, right? The verse doesn’t say she was accused of adultery, it says she was caught. She is a home wrecker. She is everything the Pharisees say she is. This woman that we often have pity on, she really wasn’t the victim- she was the villain.
That tells me two important things.
- We are required to forgive the villains in our lives, if we desire forgiveness.
For the people who have done you the dirtiest, we have no excuse to cast stones. There is no justification, no matter how horrible what they did was, to start slinging rocks. Because we can’t be blameless without Jesus. Our hands aren’t clean without the blood of Jesus. And that same blood that covers our sins, covers theirs. We MUST forgive and put down the stones.
Every time we talk about what they did to someone else to get them on our side, we throw a stone at their reputation. Every time we write someone off as a whole person, because of one or a series of mistakes they’ve made, we throw some more. Every time we let hatred and bitterness reside in our thoughts surrounding them, we just start slinging. But we have no right, because for every time you’ve been the victim in your own story, you’ve been the villain in someone else’s.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others [nurturing your hurt and anger with the result that it interferes with your relationship with God], then your Father will not forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15(AMP)
Forgiveness has nothing to do with which party is right, and which is wrong. It doesn’t matter if their sorry, or not. You might have every reason to be mad, but you lack the perfection required to hold anything against anyone. Because the truth is, we are always a villain to Jesus, yet He never treats us like it.
This verse also tells me that when we are wronged, we have a unique opportunity to grab hold of mercy. Because forgiving others actually applies forgiveness to ourselves. Jesus was in reality, giving every single person in attendance a chance at grace. If they would walk away and allow mercy to prevail, God could then work in new mercies on their behalf as well. Isn’t that beautiful? How God doesn’t waste a thing.
2. There is no shame in the presence of Jesus
They drug her out in the street. In the temple courts. It’s the equivalent of the pastor dragging a woman up to the pulpit to tell the whole church she’d been sleeping around. If anyone has ever wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear, it was this woman, at this moment. But by the end of the exchange, when just her and Jesus are left, there is no shame, no condemnation. BUT there is change. Jesus doesn’t say, I don’t condemn you so you can keep on sleeping around. He acknowledges her sin, but separates her from it.
Jesus loved her as she was, but didn’t leave her like He found her.
“She answered, “No one, Lord!” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]” John 8:11(AMP)
There was shame as she stood in front of her church family. There was shame in front of the church leaders. There was shame in front of her family, and friends. But once she got in the presence of Jesus, shame just melted away.
If shame over what you’ve done is keeping you from Jesus, it’s a trick. It’s a lie. You’ve been deceived. When we can wade through the mess that is people’s opinions, and actions about and towards us, and just claw our way to Jesus, keeping our eyes focusing solely on Him, we find freedom from shame and sin.
“What then shall we say to all these things? If God is for us, who can be [successful] against us? 32 He who did not spare [even] His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect (His chosen ones)? It is God who justifies us [declaring us blameless and putting us in a right relationship with Himself]. 34 Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us.” Romans 8:31-34(AMP)
So whether you are the victim or the villain, there is grace for you. But this grace will also require forgiveness from you.
“Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to willingly give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a good man [one who is noble and selfless and worthy] someone might even dare to die. 8 But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ” Romans 5:7-8(AMP)
We are not victims of other people’s actions. We have the privilege to be victorious in every situation because of Jesus.
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us].” Romans 8:37(AMP)
2 Comments Add yours
Great message. Forgiveness is hard to do on our own, but with Jesus, all things are possible.
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One of my favorite stories!