A woman caught in adultery dragged before Jesus. Her sins laid bare for all to see. Humiliation. Judgment. Fear for her life. “We’re supposed to stone her. What do you say? Should we stone her?” The powerful men smugly ask Jesus.
In the early morning dawn, right there at the temple courts, with so many pairs of eyes on her, she stood. Maybe half-naked, but fully exposed. One-half of a bad decision, at best. Total victim, at worst. And not one bit of it was about her.
Nobody was concerned for her soul. Nobody was concerned for her well-being. She was a pawn in a power struggle between the religious powers-that-be and this radical teacher named Jesus. She was a small screw in the hinge of the trap they were constructing to catch Jesus.
This spectacle was never about her.
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” Did Jesus look straight into the eyes of the man who’d been with this woman? Did he look into the eyes of other religious leaders who used their power to take advantage of other young women or men? Something about his voice and his writing in the sand gave everyone pause. Reminded them all of their own sin.
Without condemnation. Without hatred. Without a loud hellfire and brimstone sermon. He offered an opportunity of quiet contemplation and connection with their own humanity. A reminder that any one of them could be standing in that space with their own sins laid bare.
One by one, they walked away.
“Neither do I condemn you,” he told the woman. “Go and leave your life of sin.” With that, Jesus set her free. (John 8:1-11)
Later in that same chapter, John writes that Jesus told a crowd, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
What is Jesus’ teaching? What did Jesus say are the two greatest commandments? Love God. Love other people. What is the truth? Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6).
Loving God, loving other people, and knowing Jesus sets us free.
Being the Sin Police – for ourselves or for others – keeps our focus on sin and rules. Which makes sin and rules the boss of us. But when we love God and love people and know Jesus, our focus is on God and people and Jesus. We are free.
Sin and thoughts of sin and rules and laws and scorekeeping can control us. Or love can control us.
Jesus wants to set us free. Free to love and be loved.
And who the Son sets free is free indeed.
God, today, please help me keep my focus on loving You and loving other people. Keep me close to Jesus. Amen.