Not long ago a woman whom I worked with told me she was dis-fellowshipped from a church she was attending due to a relationship with a minister. She became pregnant from that relationship. I wasn’t surprised when she informed me that the minister was able to maintain his position in the church while she was no longer allowed to attend as a member. Unfortunately, this experience is too common.
Let’s take an imaginative trip back in history to Jerusalem sometime in between AD 27 & AD 33. It’s early in the morning and people from different classes of society are beginning to occupy the empty spaces in the local temple. Some are here to hear a message from God; some are expecting to be healed while others arrive just out of routine. The quiet setting is interrupted by a stampede of footsteps signaling the arrival of residents who are anxious to enter the temple. The reason why there is now standing room only has become clear: Jesus is here. One mother presses her sick infant against her chest as she shoves through the crowd to claim a spot where the Saviour will be sitting. A young boy wipes his eyes after raising his head from his father’s lap and fixes them on the figure of the humble looking Galilean. A man could be heard commenting to his neighbour in disbelief: ‘doesn’t look like much of a Messiah to me.’ Jesus takes a seat in the middle of the dusty temple floor. The anticipated Teacher begins his morning sermon when, without warning, the desperate cries of a distraught woman along with the angry outbursts of accompanying men are heard entering the temple doors.
The crowd turns their attention to the doorway in unison. Several members of the scribes and Pharisees force their way to the place where Jesus is sitting and push the exhausted woman to the floor. With saliva dripping from the sides of their mouths like wild beasts preparing to devour their prey, they demand Jesus’ attention as they present their case: ‘This woman was caught in the act of adultery. Moses says that such a person should be stoned but what do you say?’ They clearly aren’t seeking for justice to be served fairly because the man who was caught in this act and equally deserving of punishment is absent. It’s clear that they have come to attempt, yet again, to discredit Jesus’ influence and ministry.
Jesus hardly seems disturbed by their arrival and appears to be writing something in the sand. What will His response be? If He agrees that she should be stoned then He risks usurping the Roman authority. On the other hand, if He disagrees, it will appear that He is disregarding the sacred writings of Moses. The silence in the room is reverberating. Jesus interrupts all assumptions by looking boldly into the eyes of the woman’s accusers and declares: ‘let Him who is without sin throw the first stone.’ The woman awaits her tragic fate but her accusers begin to exit the temple door one by one. Whatever Jesus wrote in the sand is speaking to them personally. The woman begins to weep, uncontrollably when Jesus asks: ‘where are your accusers?’ She replies: ‘they’re gone.’ He then says: ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.’
We’ve all heard stories of people who were hurt by trusted leaders and members in church. Some reading this may have experienced the hurt first hand and are still wrestling with unhealed wounds from past offenses. Jesus wants us to be restored within and here are the steps.
1) Admit and acknowledge that you have been wronged. Before any healing there has to be acknowledgement. Seek therapy or counselling as needed.
2) If possible, communicate to the offending the party their offense or report it to a system that holds them accountable (including the civil authorities when necessary).
3) Recognize that Jesus’s physical body was wounded (John 20:27) and His spiritual body (the church) is made up of wounded people who sometimes hurt others. Luke 17:1 tells us that to be offended is inevitable when relating with others but we don’t have to remain bound to the offense.
4) Don’t allow the hurt to destroy your confidence in God. Separate the action of flawed people from the loving character of God.
5) Forgive. This doesn’t mean to forget or to excuse the offense. It means you will no longer be bound by the pain it caused you.
In verse 11 Jesus gives more than a command not to sin; He gives an invitation to be healed from the root of sin through union with Himself.