*She was caught making love to another man.
They dragged her into the streets asking Jesus what He thought of her behaviour. The law prescribed that such a woman be stoned.
He looked at the ground and continued scribbling in the sand.
Looking up He asked for anyone who had never broken a single commandment to take a go at stoning her first.
One by one, oldest first, they left. Looking up after a while he asked her where her accusers were and whether no one had stoned her.
They couldn’t condemn her, neither did He.
*Paraphrased from John 8: 1 – 11 [A woman caught in adultery]
I recently read that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are rumoured to be heading for a divorce. Now, I know that among celebrities, getting divorced is like going for a pedicure, but with these two actors, I thought that they might just last. Or at least I hoped they would (I still hope somewhere that they will).
There are so many people who get divorced, separated, married, remarried. Ex – wife, Ex – husband, Ex – girlfriend, Ex – boyfriend and the such have somehow lost their sense of austerity. It’s the norm almost.
I must admit I find it easy to look down on someone with exes, despite the fact that I too have had ex boyfriends!
It’s a changing world, and having a past, having baggage, is increasingly becoming the norm. Even condemning someone with a past has become a norm for me. So imagine my plight when I realized one day that I have no right to condemn someone with a rather colourful past?! It didn’t sit with me very well.
About a year ago, I remember we had gathered in my pastor’s house to read about the Adulterous Woman and her experience with Jesus. It was part of a discussion on the Personality of Jesus. We read the same passage I have quoted above. I was cut to the heart to realise that just like those who had gathered to condemn her, I too, in my mind condemned people easily for having a past.
Now this isn’t limited to someone having ex boyfriends or girlfriends, but extended to someone who had struggled with habits or lifestyles contrary to what is expected of a believing Christian. I realised on that day that I condemn people who don’t adhere to my standards or expectations. The truth is, I condemn people according to my standards, which I have created, rather than view them against the standard of a holy God.
My husband recently told us this in church – our standards are like a tall skyscraper. But God’s standards are higher than the skies above us. We can’t compare our tiny standards with God’s can we? But that is how self-righteous I am! I’ve created a sky scraper of my standards – saying that "Hey I won’t judge you if you do X number of things but the moment you do Y you’ve broken my standard and I won’t like you after that."
I am still grappling with the truth that my standards are NOT God's standards! Every time I choose to use my yardstick – I am rejecting God’s yardstick of absolute and complete holiness.
Psalm 18: 30 says that,
"As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD's word is flawless;"
My flawed standards are constantly competing with God's whose standards are perfect beyond compare. What I love about God is how He has perfected me, through Christ’s work on the cross.
Each one of us struggles with who we were before Christ. But that’s the beauty of Jesus. The most romantic thing anyone has ever done is to die for me so that my sinful past could be wiped clean. I’m not sure how many young women suffer with their past identity (past mistakes not limited to relationships but includes practically every wrong choice we thought we made), but we can take hope in Jesus, He has washed it clean!
My pastor used to often say that when we are saved by Jesus’ blood, God sees us through the prism of Christ’s blood, which is our future glory selves. Despite this truth there are still times when I am ashamed of my past and there are times when I break down because of the treacherous mistakes I’ve made. God has to keep reminding me that HE does not condemn me. My sin is condemned, but I am set free. He has given me the new identity of being called His daughter.
These words remind me of this promise from God:
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:18-19
I remember walking up to a girl (who I now dearly love and consider a sister in Christ) who I had condemned for not adhering to my standards, and apologising to her after we finished the session on the Adulterous Woman. It hurt me to admit to her that I had condemned her, but it also helped me admit my sin and move forward, to the present, where Christ’s blood is working on redeeming our relationship. Our relationship isn’t perfect, but I know the God whose word is perfect and is perfecting us both to be like Him.
I need to stop dwelling not just on my past, but also on the past lives of others, because if Jesus does not condemn them, why should I? Every time we sin, we’re caught in adultery. But since we are forgiven, Jesus doesn’t condemn us, right? So, if Jesus didn’t condemn a woman caught in adultery, how dare I?
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