One of the Bible’s greatest forgiveness stories is recorded in John 8:2-12. A woman is caught in the very act of adultery. Her guilt is not in question; there’s no way for her to excuse, deny or hide her sin. She is dragged from bed and forced to stand in condemnation before the people of her town, the religious leaders and Jesus. It’s hard to imagine the humiliation, embarrassment and shame that she felt as she stood waiting…waiting for justice to be served. Under Old Testament Law her sentence would be the death penalty by stoning. The religious leaders pushed Jesus for a verdict hoping to trap him between Old Testament Law and his New Covenant teachings. Jesus calmly and quietly said that whoever was without sin could go ahead and throw the first stone. Jesus wrote in the dirt while he awaited their response. We don’t know what he wrote, but in the Greek, the word we translate as “wrote” is Katagraphein, which means “to write down against.” This implies that Jesus was writing something against someone, perhaps the sins of the accusers. That makes a lot sense because one by one they left without a single stone being thrown. Never could the woman have dreamed or imagined, when she was dragged from bed that day, that this horrendous situation would end in grace, mercy and forgiveness. With no accusers against her, Jesus forgave her and set her free to live a NEW life!
2 Cor 5:17; Jn 8:2-12; Ro 8:1
Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past if forgotten, and everything is new. (2 Cor 5:17)
“…neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (Jn 8:11)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Ro 8:1)
Like the woman caught in her sin, we have all sinned. You may be thinking, “I’ve sinned for sure, but not at THAT level—adultery!” We tend to categorize sin; there are little sins and big sins, and secret sins are hardly worth mentioning. However, sin is sin, and all sin separates us from God and requires forgiveness. Many times people get caught in sinful patterns and behaviors that they can’t break on their own (addictions and many entrapments that come with sin). Jesus can free them from their sin, break the chains that are holding them prisoner and take away their guilt and shame. All of that happens in a moment, yet the healing is often a process that takes time. Forgiveness comes when we stand before Jesus—humbled, embarrassed, ashamed and knowing that we deserve condemnation. Like the woman, we need to be keenly aware of who we are, what we’ve done and of the unspeakable grace that Jesus offers.
Do you remember getting caught doing something wrong? Explain the situation. How did you feel/react? Were you punished? Can you think of a time when you did something wrong but didn’t get caught? How did your secret sin affect you? Did you ever confess? Why is confession “good for the soul”? Describe a time when you received grace for a wrong you committed? How did you feel/react? How would you respond if you discovered that someone you know is caught in sin? What if their sin is also a crime? Explain grace for sin vs punishment for crime? What do you think about the idea that Jesus was writing the sins of the Pharisees in the dirt? What should we learn from this story about judging others? About condemning others? What’s the difference? We have been taught that when we accept Christ, he forgives all of our sins—past, present and future. Explain your understanding of this theology. Do you need Christ to make something new?
Ask God to reveal sin in your life that you are ignoring or covering up. Seek forgiveness and leave it behind! Consider your friends and family. How can you show them God’s love and witness to them in the midst of sinful behavior or lifestyles, without condoning sin.
Prayer from Benediction in Jude verses 24-25 (MEV)
Dear God, keep me from falling and bring me into your presence blameless and with rejoicing. To You, the only wise God my Savior, be glory, majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.