“Early in the morning [Jesus] came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.
“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?’ This they said to test him.
“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.
“Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’”
(John 8: 2-11 ESV)
Love Through the Storms
In the pursuit of holiness and righteousness, some Christians can make the horrible mistake of becoming stone throwers like the ones found in John’s Gospel where a woman is caught in adultery. As a means of encouraging sanctification, we are often taught to seek only the best of company. However, this mentality can cause us to miss out on one of the most beautiful and most challenging parts of our faith: the ability to love one another through the storms of life.
Youth group messages about choosing one’s friends and even about participating in dating culture tell young Christians that they should only associate with the best of the best—Bible reading, clean-mouthed, conservatively-clothed Christians who have a clean sin-slate and no current signs of temptation. But if I have learned anything in my years as a Believer it has been that the realest and deepest growth happens when people struggle together.
What if Jesus told us that we couldn’t be saved or go to church or receive grace until we had all of our mess sorted out and cleaned up?
But he doesn’t tell us that. Instead Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11 ESV).
Grace before Sanctification
Now, I highly doubt that Jesus, who was no stranger to the fallen world or it’s sinful people, expected the woman he speaks to in this passage to have an instantaneous life change and never be tempted by sin ever again. His refusal to condemn her comes before he gives any command to her about how to live her life in the future. Similarly, we receive salvation from Christ before we begin to receive sanctification.
Much of the tension and dissension that arises between Christians and non-Christians comes from the arrogant attitude held by some that tells the rest of the world, “You need to be good enough before you can be with me.”
I would rather stand by someone whose heart is in the right place while they fight a daily battle against sin, than a person who is self-righteously blinded to his or her own need for God’s grace.
Learning from one another’s struggles
Living life alongside people who are actively wrestling through sin and temptation has opened my eyes to just how powerful the miracle of grace is. And, even more miraculously, walking alongside people through various struggles has opened my eyes to areas in which I need to grow, which I never would have seen without them.
As Christians, we need to be willing to engage with those who truly need Christ—even if it may be scary and offensive and messy. Jesus didn’t come down to earth, build himself a moated castle and wait for people to find their way to him. Instead, Jesus sacrificed his own dignity and his own comfort in order to bring salvation to the lost.
How can we not do the same?