While I was in ministry, a young woman came to my office needing help. She was homeless, hungry, and desperate. I brought her into my home, took her to a doctor, and helped her to find a sparsely furnished basement apartment. She began attending our church, but soon, her landlady let me know that not all was well. It seemed that she’d fallen back into her old occupation. Her landlady wanted to evict her — an event that soon occurred. The last time I saw her, she was with a group of other young women who were all dressed in a way that indicated what they were about. I said, “Hey!” but she looked the other way and went away with her companions, giggling. I wish I could say that she changed her wanton ways, but after that, I never saw her again.
“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to [Jesus], ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?'” (John 8:3-5 NRSV)
These proud men presented themselves as pious and righteous, but their intentions were far from upright, wanting to entrap the Lord. But Jesus, who sees inside the heart, saw inside theirs. So, He took His time answering them. He bent down and wrote in the dust with His finger.
“When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.'” (John 8:7 NRSV)
In my mind’s eye, I can visualize Him looking each one in the eye before He resumed writing in the dust. We have no idea what He was writing, but I can almost hear the stones falling to the ground one by one, each one followed by a set of feet slipping away. Finally, Jesus stood up and looked straight at the distraught woman trembling in front of Him.
“‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.'” (John 8:10b-11NRSV)
Jesus provided a way out for the woman, but with a warning. He freed her to be on her own, no longer controlled by someone else, but Scripture doesn’t tell us what she did with that freedom. Did she have a home to return to after her public shaming? Was there a town of refuge nearby where she could go? Did she have money stashed away? Would she need to beg? Did she really sin no more? Would anyone help the likes of her? Scripture is silent about this.
Like it or not, we should ponder these questions as being directed to ourselves. We are sinners. We all mess up at one time or another. We all need our Saviour’s forgiveness. So, if we do have the chance to offer help to someone who needs a leg up from a go-nowhere life, let’s do it. Admittedly, it’s risky, but worth doing, because, as the saying goes, the life that we save may be our own.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, enable us to forgive as You forgive us, and to continue Your work by enabling others to find You through our words and our deeds. Amen.
Tionesta, Pennsylvania, USA
Reprinted from the PresbyCan Daily Devotional with the author’s permission