Set Free By Mercy

Each of us has met someone who’s life has been torn apart by adultery.  It is a devastating sin regardless of which side of the offense you are on.  On the one side is unending regret, the other is the sense of utter betrayal.

Charles Swindoll says it well:

According to the Old Testament law adultery required punishment by death (Lev. 20:10).  According to the teachings of Christ in the New Testament, it was legitimate grounds for divorce (Matthew 5:32).  Can any sin be as painful, as far-reaching in its consequences, as difficult to forgive?

Of the clandestine thrill of adultery, Solomon poetically writes:

Stolen water is sweet; and Bread eaten in secret is pleasant (Proverbs 9:17)

But in the very next verse, Solomon focuses on the tragic consequences of entering into such a relationship:

But he does not know that the dead are there, That her guests are in the depths of Sheol. 

For the woman in John 8, caught in the very act of adultery, her life, too, would never be the same again.  Not because of the stones of judgment ready to be cast at her by the self righteous crowd of Pharisees, but because of the soft words of forgiveness spoken to her by Jesus”

The story of the woman caught in adultery is intriguing.  We are fascinated by the way Jesus handled this situation and fascinated by what we can learn.

This passage reveals the true heart of judgmental people

    • Note that the Pharisees and Scribes present themselves as those supremely concerned for God’s law. But our passage shows this was not the case.  If they had really been concerned for the law they would have brought both parties who were “caught” as the law commanded.  This is true of those today who wag their boney fingers in our faces.  They swell up as if they were defending God’s honor but this is deceptive.  If they were truly concerned about God’s law they would be concerned about the command to “Judge Not!) (Matt. 7:1)
  • Their real concern was to trap Jesus.  They wanted to put him on the “horns of a dilemma”.  If he says, “Stone her” then he has trouble with the Roman Government for commanding a “unapproved killing”. He also puts his own integrity in jeopardy.  After all Jesus spend time with tax-collectors and sinners.  And if  he says “Don’t stone her” he appears to disregard the law of God.

The real concern of those who are judgmental is not to help us find grace . . . it is to increase our misery.  We must never become soft on sin.  We must be clear that certain things are wrong but . . . . our focus is to be redemptive….not punitive.  The judgmental seek to be judgmental, not helpful.

  • Not only were these men looking for a way to trap Jesus . . . they were looking for a way to exalt themselves.  You see, Jesus was a threat to their territory.  He was causing people to ask embarrassing questions, to leave the “fold”.  They could not allow this to continue or they might never recover.  By tearing down Jesus they hoped to elevate themselves.

This is true of the judgmental of today.  For some reason there is a perverted sense that by tearing down another we are exalting ourselves.  Maybe it is because when others are in the spotlight we are not.

The pretense is of a person doing something spiritual.  However, in reality when we are judging others we are engaging in the most worldly or pursuits.  We are playing God.

So, how do we combat this tendency?  What is the antidote to a judgmental attitude?  It’s really quite simple: Look at yourself in the mirror. We must realize that the person who has fallen is different from us only in the fact that they have fallen and we haven’t . . . . yet!

Often I will hear someone say, “I like you as a preacher but I have problems with some of the members of your congregation. . . . you see, I know them.  They aren’t very holy out in the real world.”  That’s like saying, “I like the hospital but it always seems to have sick people in it!   Let me ask, “Where are sinful people supposed to go?”  This attitude of being better than each other is unChristian and very unbecoming.

The best way to stimulate holy living

Surprising as it may seem, Jesus does not condemn this woman.  He tells her that He does not condemn her.

First off we are tempted to say, “Jesus let her off . . . .that will just encourage her to sin more.” But if so, we miss the point.  Jesus does not minimize her sin, not at all.  And neither should we.

  • Adultery regardless of circumstances is wrong
  • Homosexual lifestyles are an abomination to the Lord
  • Gossip offends God’s holiness
  • Theft from a household, the office, the government builds a wall of separation between us and God.
  • Prejudice is reprehensible to the Father
  • superficial religion disgusts God

The list could go on.  We must be Biblical about the sinfulness of sin.  But, at the same time we must realize that while sin is horrible, the sinner is invited to come for forgiveness.  We are not the judge, God is.  We do not have all the facts . . . God does.  We cannot judge impartially….God can . . . and does.

There are times when people do not see the sin in their lives.  Those people must be shown their sin before they can be introduced to mercy but most of the time sinful people are well aware of their sinfulness.  They don’t need someone to jump on their body one they have been mugged by sin . . . they need someone to lend them a hand so they can get up!

Some might also argue that Jesus’ response to this woman will encourage her to take her pursuit of holiness lightly.  I disagree.

There is nothing like getting a taste of the freedom that comes from mercy.  One taste of that freedom and we don’t want to go back.

We see this with our children.  We are uncertain about whether or not we want/ or can handle children when we are childless.  But, the first moment they put your child in your arms, you are hooked.  You would not want to go back to that pre-child state for anything.

This woman didn’t leave Jesus feeling she “got away with something” she left feeling blessed beyond words.  I love the words of Ken Gire in his book INTIMATE MOMENTS:

There are no tears as she leaves.  Years later there will be.  At odd moments during the day: when she looks at her children asleep in their beds; when she waves good-bye to her husband as he walks to work in the morning; when she kneads bread in the solitude of her kitchen.

A marriage she would have had…a family she never would have had…a life she never would have had- were it not for such a wonderful savior.  A savior who stood up for her when others wanted to stone her.  A Savior who stooped to pick her up and send her on her way, forgiven.

No, this woman did not take the gift for granted.  This love motivated her just like it motivates everyone who is a true child of the Father.

Concluding Questions

The question I pose is this: Who do you identify most with in this story?

Are you going through life with clenched fists: one clenching an accusing point and the other a rock?  It may not be a literal stone but it may be a rock of slander, a rock of innuendo, a rock of disapproval.  Are you trying to “grow” spiritually by tearing others down?  If so, it is time to repent of your foolishness.  Stop looking at others and look in the mirror.  It’s time for you to deal with YOUR sin, my friend.

Or perhaps you feel like the woman…..every where you go you feel the stares.  You sense everyone whispering about you. You know you have fallen . . . . you know you have made mistakes. You wish you could go back and make some decision differently.  If this is you, I remind you that there is one who is more concerned about restoring your life than taking it.  There is one more concerned about healing than increasing your pain and His name is Jesus.  Turn to Him . . . He knows what you have done and He will forgive you and set you free if you will turn to Him.

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