This is a very famous Bible story. And, even though I’m sure many of us have heard it before, I believe we can still derive something new from it. While studying for this post, I realized that when I read these verses, I tend to focus on everyone but the woman at the center of the story. I look at the Pharisees and mourn how my heart can so often look like theirs. I focus on Jesus, who gives overwhelming kindness and unmerited grace to those in need. But usually, though she’s at the center of this incident, my focus is not on this precious woman who was the recipient of Jesus’s incredible mercy.
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”” John 8:3-11 (NIV)
While reading through this story again, I had a thought that I don’t think I had ever considered before: I wonder how long God had been trying to get this woman’s attention before this moment.
Though I’m sure many of us would hate to admit it, we truly are creatures of habit and we all cycle through patterns over and over again. Many of us have a daily, weekly, or monthly routine that we might not even consciously realize. I, for example, experience an overwhelming discontentment at work about every six months. And every time I go around in this cycle again, it’s an opportunity for me to see my brokenness and turn to God and his goodness. He wants me to invite him into those moments so that he can heal and restore.
And I believe he had been doing the same thing for the woman in this story.
Unfortunately, we don’t know much about this woman other than this one isolated incident. But I wonder how many months or years the Lord had been trying to get her attention to draw her heart back to him.
Had she been caught in adultery before?
Had she been warned by a friend not to go down this path?
Had she prayed for the strength to not follow through on her basest desires?
I don’t know, but I now empathize with this woman more than I have during any previous reading.
We all engage in unhealthy cycles throughout our lives that can hurt us and those around us. But those are the very things that God wants to heal in each one of us. He doesn’t desire for us to go through life making choices that lead to our detriment, but he came to give us abundant life. He came to give this woman abundant life.
Is there anything that God has been whispering to you about?
A pattern he’s been highlighting or a cycle he’s been pointing out?
He doesn’t do these things to make us uncomfortable or shame us, but to bring healing to us.
No matter who we are or what we’ve done, we are in the same position as the woman in this story—we have messed up, fallen short, and we need the grace of God. We get to choose if we’re going to walk away from that sin, like the woman, or reinforce the wall of pride like the Pharisees. I hope and pray that we respond like this woman, choosing to follow God and embrace the grace that he has freely given. Let’s choose to live out the abundant life he’s given us, instead of remaining locked in the cycles of dysfunction we can easily get trapped in.
Do you ever find yourself trapped in a cycle of dysfunction?
Do you tend to relate more to the Pharisees or the woman in this story?