Remember that poor woman accused of adultery? She was condemned to be stoned. Quite a painful death, and there was no way out. She had sinned and deserved death. It was the law, after all. But then, Jesus came into the picture. All He did was write with His finger in the dirt, but what He wrote made an unforgettable impact on the crowd.
After finishing the first part of His written message, He lifted His eyes up and said: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7, NIV2) Then he started to write again, and one by one, the condemners walked away, as they realized that they were no better than this “prostitute”. Everyone left! That poor woman was now alone with Jesus, and “Jesus stood up and spoke to her. ‘Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?'” (John 8:10, MSG)
The prideful, the judgmental, even the legalistic had missed what grace meant. They saw everything through eyes of condemnation. They were the vipers in the society that gave a bad name to our Heavenly Father, but they left defeated. Their condemnation towards that poor woman fell short. What had Jesus written so that everyone of them had left deflated? No one knows.
Now comes the most beautiful part: “‘No one, Master.’ ‘Neither do I,’ said Jesus. ‘Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.'” (John 8:11, MSG) That woman passed from certain death into real living. She realized what grace truly meant, and that grace was personified in Jesus Himself.
Jesus forgives. He shows grace because love abounds in Him.
If we have religion, but do not have Jesus, we have missed the boat, just as these accusers. If we have self-righteousness instead of grace, we have erred greatly. We may have a Bible, but if we filter it according to our own terms, we will turn this precious Book into a mockery.
These accusers that were condemning this poor woman had their own filter as well. They were eager to condemn anyone, as long as they had the semblance of self-righteousness. To them, everything was filtered for their own profit. This is still the case among many so-called believers. Filtering like this will only justify our own condition rather than help us see reality. “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.” (Matt 7:13, MSG)
If we would only filter the Bible through the grace of our Heavenly Father, only then would we realize that we are free from the curse, that we are forgiven, truly forgiven for eternity. “Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse.” (Gal 3:13, MSG)
One filter leads us to bondage, the other to freedom. “So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.” (John 8:36, MSG) Only by looking through the eyes of God will we realize what God’s Word is telling us.
Unforgiveness is detrimental to healing. After all, isn’t it written: “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.” (Jas 5:15, NIV2)
What are we focusing on: life or death?
While visiting Auschwitz last summer, our guide provided a lot of information about people who had made a difference in this concentration camp. One of them was someone named Edie. She had been brought with her parents to Auschwitz, and though she survived, both her parents perished. Edie felt the hardship that was imposed on her every day in this camp, but she never let herself become demoralized nor defeated. She didn’t want to become a victim of her circumstances, instead she wanted to remain free by forgiving her oppressors. As a result, she was freed from hatred and bitterness.
Towards the end of the war, she, along with many other Jews, were transported to Austria. By the time her concentration camp was liberated, she was so emanciated from malnutrition that the Nazis threw her body out with the dead. One young American soldier saw some movement among these dead bodies and rescued Edie. She was then nourished back to health.
Once out of danger, she wanted to help others. She became a psychologist, with her emphasis on helping people learn to forgive so that they don’t have to live in bondage to their emotions. Freedom can only be obtained through forgiveness. In fact, according to her, forgiveness is a selfish act to free ourselves from the bondage of the past! She feels that the soldiers in Auschwitz were the true prisoners, and she even asks herself what she might have become if she had not gone to Auschwitz! Through our adversity, we learn valuable lessons that we need in order to survive the other turmoils of life. Hatred only leads to bondage!
Edie loves to share her insights with students. Her hope is that they will never end up in the bondage of hatred. Students love her and are mesmerized by her Christ-based mindset: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14, NIV) In other words forgiveness truly leads to freedom!