|From the Sabbath School section|
There are two basic moral compasses that drive all of us – guilt and grace. We vacillate between the two and then, based on the way we were discipled by parents or teachers, we settle into one or the other – sometimes very deeply.
Grace driven people live knowing they are worthy of redemption. Love exudes from them. They know and believe that Jesus’ grace is enough for them – otherwise He would have provided something different. His death on the cross restored a right relationship between themselves and God. In daily living, these people are gracious with others and forgiving of their own faults. Because they are assured of their place in the Kingdom of God, they do not worry about their life, what they will eat or drink; or about their body, what they will wear. They rest well because Jesus has done the work for them! Grace is like a ripe piece of fruit handed to them which they eat freely, deeply, often.
Guilt driven people live believing they are unworthy of forgiveness. Law radiates from them. They treat themselves, and often others, harshly and never feel they have done enough, and what they have done isn’t good enough. Jesus’ perfect life makes them feel inadequate. So they work and work. They don’t rest well. Accepting forgiveness is very hard because to be forgiven you must accept defeat. This causes them to struggle to forgive or trust others. They know Jesus’ death on the cross is their salvation, they are just unsure how to accept it. Grace is like precious stone frozen in the middle of a huge block of ice – they can see it, but they just can’t figure out how to get to it. So they keep chipping away.
Most Guilt driven Christians are that way because they were raised that way – either by legalistic parents or, if they were adults when they became Christians, legalistic Christians who discipled them. Nobody is born believing they are unlovable. That takes years of judgement, belittling and humiliation – first by others, then by ourselves.
Switching moral drivers from guilt to grace is difficult. It takes a shift in worldview and often the only way to change a worldview is to have your world turned upside-down. And that hurts! But, when your world does come crashing down around you and you fall, or are thrown, there in one place worth falling.
At the feet of Jesus (John 8:1-11)
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.Have you witnessed someone who has been caught in sin, dragged into public by religious leaders and thrown down in judgement in front of a congregation of watchers?
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
How did you respond to that person?
If Jesus was there how would he have responded?
How did you respond to the religious leaders?
If Jesus was there how would he have responded?
How does this story challenge anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus?
When a sinner is thrown at Jesus’ feet, the first thing Jesus does is drive away the accusers. In our lives, when we are caught in sin and shamed publicly, it often feels like we are being driven away. But in Truth, it is Jesus driving our accusers away so He can spend some quiet time with us - and forgive us. There is no better place to fall, or be thrown, than at the feet of Jesus.
As Jesus traced words on the dusty temple steps with his finger the teachers of the Law went away, one by one. The only thing Jesus ever wrote with His own hand drove religious leaders away from Him and saved a sinner from judgment and death. Jesus overwhelms Law with Love—writing His name on our heart and our name on His hand—this is salvation. God's Law produces guilt, God's Love produces grace.
What is Jesus revealing about the character of God?
What kind of people does this story suggest will accept God's grace?
What does this story teach us about those who value the Law more highly than Love?
How does Jesus’ action and answer reveal the difference between guilt and grace?
How do we respond to those caught in sin? Are we more like Jesus, the silent crowd or the teachers of the Law?
John was written later than the other gospels – after the early church was formed and growing. It is often called the Gospel of God’s Love. Perhaps the early church needed a reminder of God’s passion for the lost, blind and broken - and that He expected His people to love who and how He loves.
Biblical scholars tell us, the recounting of the woman caught in adultery was added to John sometime after it was originally written. This story, of a guilty woman thrown at Jesus’ feet, was shared from person to person until an editor of an early manuscript thought readers would benefit from hearing it in the context of John’s telling of the Jesus story. But, it’s not just a story of a guilty woman. It is also the story of judgmental leadership, silent bystanders and God’s grace in the forgiving actions of Jesus.
What need, in the early church, could this story have been addressing?
What purpose, in today’s church, should this story serve?
To explore this story, and it’s meaning in our lives, in more depth see “A Changed Woman” in the 28 Stories Bible study series.