She lay there in the dirt, torn from the embrace of her lover, caught in the very act that condemned her. They wanted to stone her. According to the law, they had every right to circle around and hurl small boulders, bruising, crushing, breaking her body, silencing her screams. But they waited to see what he would say, this young rabbi; they challenged his beliefs with her very life.
He didn’t say anything, just knelt down next to her and began to write with his finger in the dirt. She saw his hand out of the corner of her eye, felt his presence next to her. He ignored the clamoring crowd and was silent as he drew. Finally, he stood.
“Any of you who are without sin can be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again, he knelt next to her and wrote in the dirt with his finger. That was it. There was an awkward silence.
After a moment, she noticed that the crowd seemed smaller. Peering through her hair, she realized that the religious men were slowly leaving. Eventually, it was just her and Jesus alone on that dusty patch of dirt. He looked at her. She lifted her head.
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” His voice was kind. She looked around. They were all gone.
“No one, sir.”
“Neither do I condemn you.” He smiled. “Go, and from now on sin no more.”
I LOVE this story! So unexpected, so against human nature, so full of grace.
Ah, grace. We sing worship songs about it, read verses about it, talk about it, but do we really understand it? Do we really believe it? Have we felt the overwhelming flood of God’s grace for ourselves? There is a strange conundrum when it comes to grace…the least deserving experience it the most. And, those who think they deserve it rarely find enough to scrape together.
You can’t earn something and get it for free at the same time.
“…that he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:7-9
Friends, it was not the good, moral, religious people who enjoyed the grace of Jesus Christ on his first visit to planet earth. It was the rejects, the scumbags, the dirty-filthy-sinners who felt the full power of his amazing grace.
Here is where it gets sticky. Most of us would never pretend we are earning our way to heaven through good works. We would quickly say that salvation comes by faith. To us then, Paul asks this question, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Gal 3:3
Evaluate your heart with me:
- How do you feel about personal failure?
- Are you defensive when people correct or challenge you?
- Do you ever think that God must be disappointed in you?
- When was the last time you “avoided God” because you were too messed up?
- Why do you do good things?
I had an interesting conversation with a college student at camp this summer. She was struggling with fear and anxiety, worried she wasn’t doing enough for God, and feeling like a failure. After listening for a while, I asked her why she was concerned about doing these “good things”. She told me that it was the right thing to do. I asked why. She told me it made God happy. I asked why doing good things makes God happy. She said because He wants us to do good. I asked why.
“Because He does…”
Does He? Does God really want us to try to be good?
I think too many of us are struggling to be “good” when we should just be sitting in the dirt being sinners. Because, guess who’s sitting there in the dust next to us?
We find Jesus in the dirt.
Grace is only good news if you are broken. “Good people” find grace offensive because it says that we have nothing to offer and that nothing we do makes any difference. It slaps our pride in the face.
Another conundrum…how can I be worth everything and nothing at the same time? My self effort at goodness is worth nothing, but my broken, sinful humanity is worth everything? Yup, that’s right. Our worthless, helpless, sinful, messed up selves are priceless in the eyes of Jesus. But our works, our efforts to clean up, our lists, our standards, our resolutions, they are just old, dirty rags, something to be thrown away. How can this be?
Welcome to the backwards, inside-out kingdom of Jesus Christ!
I’d like you to meet my new best friend, the woman caught in adultery. Can you imagine how she felt? How condemned? Judged? Guilty? Ashamed? I hate those feelings…I know them all too well… And yet, there in that painful, hard, shameful, broken place, she met Jesus. She found lavish grace. It was grace that the “good”, religious people would never taste.
I often find myself sitting in the dirt next to my sister and friend. I feel the condemnation from myself and others. It’s heavy, overwhelming. But then He is there with us, just quietly writing in the dirt. He looks at us with eyes filled with tender love and whispers, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? I shake my head; no, none of those voices matter, only His. “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and leave your life of sin.”
I can breathe again. The weight falls off. I am loved, wanted, forgiven, free. Because of grace.