In Luke 8, we see an adulterous woman brought before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. They state, that by the very Law, she should be stoned. The Law, handed down by God himself, allowed them every right to both condemn and put to death this woman (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22). This was God’s command.
Jesus doesn’t wag his finger at her and say, “Tisk, tisk. You’re a sinner but I still love you.” Nope. Instead, he stoops down and starts writing in the sand. There’s been many theories on what Jesus was writing, but I think that misses the point. It would seem that Jesus’ first priority was to direct the negative attention away from the woman and onto himself. He did this by drawing in the sand—a gesture that likely caused everyone to focus on what “answer” he might be writing.
Of coarse, when the scribes and Pharisees got wise to this, they diverted attention back to the woman. Do we still do this today? When someone is trying to show what Paul calls the “most excellent way” (1 Cor 12:13, which leads into the love chapter), do we instead throw dirt on the subject? When a city comes together in love after a tragedy, do we instead focus on controversy about flags and guns?
It seems though, that when the accusers caught on to what Jesus was doing, they again shifted the focus back to punishment by the Law as was God’s initial command. Of coarse, everyone knows Jesus’ response, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her.” And of coarse, they all dropped their stones and left.
Notice here that Jesus never once directly accused her of sin. In fact, he redirected the negativity to himself first, prior to even addressing the situation. Perhaps this is another way of saying that when we feel like throwing stones, we should keep our focus on Jesus instead.
It was only after all of this, when Jesus had routed the shame dumped onto the woman, did he confront her with, not a tongue lashing, but by telling her she wasn’t condemned. He set her free from guilt and shame so that she could then “go and sin no more.” Is this what we’re doing in our world? Are we showing love to others, setting them free from their guilt and shame so that they are then able to go and sin no more? Or are we just piling on more guilt and shame? Notice that the woman never “repented” for what she did. Jesus didn’t wait for her to make an apology first. He took action to love her right where she was at to set her free of sin. This is the type of life Jesus calls us to live as Christians! Condemnation doesn’t draw people closer to Jesus—it only pushed them further away!
It would do us well to remember that in the Christian crap-storm that has ensued in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, we are called to a more loving purpose by Jesus—to live by the spirit of the law, not the letter. As Paul intimates, the letter of the law brings death but the Spirit of the law brings life (2 Cor 3:6). It seems we Christians are thumping our Bibles harder than we are striving to follow Jesus’ example in its’ pages.
It would seem that we can be right in the law, but wrong in our hearts. If we have to attach a “but” to our love, or any other stipulations, then is it really unconditional?