On Accusers and Adulterers … and What Grace Really Looks Like

Have you ever read a familiar passage of Scripture, one you’ve studied and taught and heard countless sermons about, and then one day you read it and the Holy Spirit whispers something entirely new to you, a glimpse of something you had never considered?  Yeah, that happened to me yesterday.

I’m using the She Reads Truth Women in the Word plan this summer. {And I love it, by the way!} Yesterday was Day 7 in the New Testament readings. John 8:1-11 … the adulterous woman.

You know the story, right? Jesus is teaching in the Temple. The men who want to trap Him drag in a half-naked woman caught in the illicit act and thrust her toward Him asking if He thinks they should obey the Law and stone her. Jesus leans over and writes in the dirt as they continue to pester Him with demands for an answer.  He looks up and say, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” and then begins writing in the dirt again. The men walk away and the woman is left there. Jesus asks where her accusers are and she tells him there are none left.  He says, “Go and sin no more.” That’s the TL paraphrase.

I’ve heard a lot of speculation about what Jesus was writing and what made the men walk away. I’ve read and taught and heard the message of the account: We’re the woman, caught in sin and offered mercy.

What Grace Really Looks Like {3 lessons from John 8:1-11}

But yesterday, instead of focusing on what I could learn about me in the story … I looked for what I could learn about Jesus. Here’s what I wrote in my journal:

I’ve never noticed this account begins with Jesus spending the night on the Mount of Olives {John 8:1}, probably in prayer. That’s the key to having the type of response He had, isn’t it? A devotion to prayer.

He was humble and yet in complete control. He spoke with compassion and grace but also truth and authority. And, just as He did not condemn the woman, Scripture doesn’t specifically state any condemnation of the accusers.

So often when we look at this passage we focus on her. But there are some powerful lessons when we look at Him, like how to respond to the accusers and troublemakers and how to respond to the sinners {you know, like us!}.

What Grace Really Looks Like ... 3 lessons from John 8:1-11 http://wp.me/p3aJPA-27l Click To Tweet

1. Prayer is the preparation for everything.  Jesus made it a practice to pray.  He was diligent about getting away to spend time with Father. Is there any doubt that if He needed time in prayer, we need it even more?

2. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing or very little. It’s easy to jump into the fray but Jesus didn’t argue, debate, or accuse.  He wasn’t self-righteous or indignant. He simply asked a question which allowed the men to consider their own motives.  There’s a quote I love, “Maturing is realizing how many things don’t require your comment.” Proverbs 19:10 speaks to this same thing, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”  What if we chose not to insert ourselves into every controversy?

3. When we offer grace, we’ve done our part. Scripture doesn’t say if the woman changed her ways.  Yeah, we like to think she did. But we don’t know … and really, that isn’t the point.  Jesus offered her hope and He has charged us with sharing that same hope with those around us.  How they respond isn’t the point.  It’s hard, though, not to want people to see the truth of Scripture and adjust their lives to it. We want to see instant results. But our job is obedience — loving God and loving others. We must trust the Holy Spirit to do the work of conviction and transformation in our lives and in the lives of others.

Our job is obedience. We must trust the Holy Spirit to do the work of conviction & transformation. http://wp.me/p3aJPA-27l Click To Tweet

I saw myself in that story … as the accuser, ready to hurl the stones at the one who sins differently that I do, and as the adulterer, ashamed and humiliated because of my sin. I guess the truth is, I am both. I am the one who chooses to judge and the one who chooses to sin. But the biggest lesson I learned from my reading yesterday was this: what grace really looks like is meeting people where they are and giving them space to respond to Jesus.

On Accusers and Adulterers ... what grace really looks like {Lessons from John 8:1-11}

Here’s the thing, I know there will be days when I’m just like the accusers and days when I’m like the adulterers … but I want more days to be the ones when I look like Jesus, speaking with grace and truth, humility and compassion.


Teri Lynne

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  1. “What grace looks like is meeting people where they are and giving them room to respond to Jesus” Oh my… yes. But, how often I want them to respond to ME. As if I have anything worthy. It’s the “fixer” in me. I wish I could be in one of your Wednesday night Bible studies. You, my friend, are a gifted teacher of the Word.

    • Oh Kristin, I know! I want them to respond to me too. The ongoing battle between flesh and Spirit rages in my heart in this area far more often than I’d ever like others to know.

      Love you … and your sweet encouragement and constant friendship. Such a gift.

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