She was dragged half-naked through the dusty streets. The clothes that covered her earlier that morning, were left behind in passion and now in regret. Now shame was the only thing that covered her. Everything was spinning and the angry crowd spat upon her, hit her and pushed her through the streets. These were not new streets and the faces and voices were not new, either. These were familiar streets she walked as a girl and familiar people who watched her grow up, wondering at her beauty and admiring her to her parents.
Yet, here… here she was, stripped bare before them all. Her heart raced with fear, her face burned with humiliation and her mind was frozen with shock. How did she get here? How did she say yes to the man who worked methodically to wear down her defenses? Did she even say yes? She remembered feeling confused and cautious as he wore her down with his compliments and then his blackmailing sinister comments. But, how did this happen that a mob of men found her in the very act of adultery? Where was the man who seduced her and what would become of her now?
“It may be better this way,” she thought. “There is no reason for me to live after all of this. How can I go on living after everyone has seen me this way today?”
“How did this happen?”
Shame was her covering and those who sought her shaming and death believed they were doing the righteous thing. Gossip was hot on the streets and the rage, lust and demand for justice burned in those poised to stone the woman caught in adultery.
This sounds like a regular day on social media, really. But, how did we get here? How do we believe that public stonings and slandering gossip are the way to deal with sin? Jesus taught us better when, with a few questions he toppled the hypocrisy of the stone holders.
Remember that Jesus is the one who told the men who drug the woman caught in adultery out in the public square, “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Who was able to cast the stones? Jesus, of course. Jesus was without sin. But, he chose to cover, to forgive and to in grace, turn her heart to The Father’s desire for her life in love.
” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10 Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 She said, “No one, [a]Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]
Click here to watch the 1 min video (but come back for the rest of the story!): The Woman Caught in Adultery
Jesus is showing us the way to deal with people’s sin in a kind way, in an honoring way, in a covering way. This is the way of love. It doesn’t condone sin at all. It approaches it with grace and a firm directive to “Go and Sin No More.”
And here we have him, the knight in shining armor, literally, Jesus…who he is, arrayed for battle to defend those who would turn to him. Here he saved her, in more ways than one.
The one with the power and the right to destroy shows mercy. He uses his strength to defend and to set her heart back on the path of hope. The God who sees us knows that we are but a breath and a vapor. He knows our weaknesses and our sins. Yet, he who knew no sin became a sin offering for us.
People may say this is different than the God of the Old Testament, but even from the garden of Eden we see God’s heart to intervene, to cover our sin with his love.
And what was God’s very first reaction after the first sin?
To cover their nakedness.
God covered their shame.
A couple of innocent animals had to die first, as the initial attempts to cover shame with some fig leaves fell embarrassingly short.
He clothed them with the first blood sacrifice and with mercy and with clothing. Sin brought a curse, but God immediately had a plan for redemption and for love to overcome.
This same God brings the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and we should be emulating his love and grace.
Jesus said we will know a tree by it’s fruit. When a person is walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, the love of God is abundant in their lives. The joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control should be popping up in our lives. In fact, others should know that if they come to the tree of our lives, they will expect to find the good fruit of the work of the Spirit.
I was thinking of Joseph and Mary the other day. Joseph thought in his heart of hearts that Mary sinned against him by committing adultery. However, the Bible says, “Because he was a righteous man, he intended to put her away quietly.” Now, Joseph, I am sure could find scriptural reasons to have her dragged out in the middle of the town square and stoned to death. However, the Bible calls him righteous for “covering” her supposed sin. He wanted to deal with the sin in an honoring manner, for her good. God corrects us for our own good and the goal is the restoration of our relationship with him. Joseph knew this and I am sure it is why God choose him to be Jesus’s earthly father.
It says in Deuteronomy 8: “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers. 2 You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you [a]understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.5 Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.
Here we see God disciplines for our good. He wants us to know him. His discipline is meant to draw out the intentions of our hearts. He does not want to destroy us. He allows certain things (like sickness, job loss, relationship stress,) into our lives that are challenging, to reveal the content of our hearts and refine us, but also allows miracles in the middle of those deserts.
He says, “You absolutely need to go through this desert, but I will feed you supernaturally, I will not let your clothes wear out and your feet won’t even swell in the heat.” This is the work of a GOOD FATHER! Look at the heart of the God of the Old Testament. He loves us enough to allow us to experience things in this life that will eradicate the sin from our hearts, but all the while, he COVERS US with his power and his love.
If he is our good father, how should we behave?
God saw Joseph’s discretion to care for Mary’s heart and life as righteousness. Joseph wasn’t going to “wink” at what he thought was Mary’s sin. (Which it wasn’t sin, by the way. She conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.) He was going to deal with it privately, away from the public eye. However, in our time, many people think they need to SHAME other believers in their sin or shortcomings to “teach them a lesson”. They gossip and or put them down in front of others. Instead of making the goal restoration, the goal is to put someone down and make them look bad. Perhaps that is because we look better when we put people down? Maybe it makes us feel more righteous? Let’s teach lessons of love and emulate hope so others will learn to walk as Jesus walked.
I am increasingly saddened by the way that people who claim to know Jesus treat one another. Ignoring someone because they get on your nerves. Being harsh with those who are afraid. Gossiping about a person who is caught in sexual sin. (Instead of working to restore them.), Embarrassing someone publicly with sarcasm. Not doing the right thing, because you simply don’t “feel like it.” These are all behaviors that cut to a person’s heart and do not teach them the truth. Instead, these behaviors teach the person on the receiving end to hide their behavior and to hide from Christians who are too harsh, too selfish to be careful with another person’s heart.
One of the major portions of the armor of God is our breastplate of righteousness. Joseph’s honoring way of handling Mary was considered righteous. I am saddened when I think of how during the past several decades, righteous, godly, honoring behavior has been replaced with crass joking about people, harsh treatment of children, dishonoring parents, and other downright selfish behavior. In the name of coolness at the best and in the name of grace at the worst we justify our callous behavior towards other human beings.
It looks cool and good to slam dunk someone in a social media thread. It looks “Godly” to publicly shame a Christian in sin. It looks funny when teens and children treat their parents like old fuddy duddies with an eye roll and a joke.
It takes true grace to extend grace. It takes true time and the power of The Holy Spirit to restore someone who is living in sin. It takes privacy and godliness to help a person coming out of a lot of pain. Satan would make us believe there is a bit of righteousness in blowing the trumpets on those caught in sin and dragging them out in the public square for a well-deserved stoning.
I challenge everyone who reads this to do a careful survey in prayer of the way you treat those around you. Are you harsh and shaming? Are you full of selfishness and withholding the love God requires you to give? How has God covered and ultimately removed your sin in grace and love? How can you extend the beautiful covering of love to others?