The Woman Caught in Adultery

Commentary by Jack Kelley

The Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with His finger. When they kept on questioning Him He straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:3-8)

Why Are Christians Such Hypocrites?

A man once told me, “I’m not coming to your church.  Too many hypocrites go there.” “Please join us,” I replied, “One more won’t hurt.”  Seriously, the headline above is a question often asked by unbelievers.  They see us condemning in others behavior they know many of us are often guilty of in spite of the Lord’s admonition to the contrary.  “Do not condemn,” He said, “And you won’t be condemned” (Luke 6:37).

Psychologists claim that we subconsciously hate in others those weaknesses we most despise in ourselves. When we become Christians we don’t stop being sinners and if we’re not careful this subconscious loathing of our own sinfulness can cause us to harden our hearts toward others instead of having the compassion that should result from the forgiveness we’ve received.

Think of the woman who has an abortion hidden in her past and has now become a militant Pro-Life activist loudly reminding everyone that abortion is murder.  Or how about the alcoholic who is intolerant of drinkers,  or the man with a disaster for a marriage who strongly condemns divorce.  Are their motives pure or are they projecting their anger with themselves onto others?  Maybe they are trying to punish someone else for committing sins they themselves struggle with.  (Often behavior we think of as righteous is merely self- righteous.)

Some Christians hate those who do things they themselves would either secretly like to do or have done and still carry the guilt for it.   They forget the only difference between the sinner and the saint is the decision to accept the pardon the Lord purchased with His blood.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus said.  “You hypocrite!  First take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:3,5).  Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

What Would Jesus Do?

The only anger the Lord ever expressed toward man was in response to the self-righteous officials who somehow convinced themselves they weren’t sinners anymore and publicly condemned those who still were. When He wrote in the sand in John 8:6, perhaps the Lord was writing the secret sin of each accuser. Maybe that’s what made them all slink away. It’s clear that something He did underscore His comment that the one without sin should cast the first stone and reminded the woman’s accusers that they were sinners too.

Then He refused to condemn the woman Himself (John 8:11) while reminding her that her behavior was a sin.   The officials of His day criticized Him for associating with sinners, but who else was there for Him to associate with? Who needed the comfort of God?  Surely not those who had convinced themselves they were no longer sinners.

Was the Lord soft on sin? Absolutely not! And coming to Jesus does not grant one a license to sin, but once we recognize our behavior as sin and confess, His example is to forgive and forget. Paul demonstrated this in 2 Cor 2: 5-9 when he admonished the church in Corinth to welcome back the sinner he had them expel in 1 Cor.5: 1-5, fearing the man would otherwise be overcome with excessive sorrow.

We all remember his admonition to expel the sinner and turn him over to Satan to be punished, but we forget he also taught that our failure to forgive is just as much a tool of Satan as the sin is.  In 2 Cor. 2:11 he said to restore him “in order that Satan might not outwit us, for we are not unaware of his schemes.”

So What’s The Point?

Jesus was above reproach in a way none of us could ever be, and yet He showed only compassion,  not accepting sinful behavior but never rejecting the person who sinned.  Maybe if we showed that same kind of love toward other sinners, we’d have more power and influence for good in the world and appear less like the hypocritical Pharisees.  It’s His kindness that led us to repentance after all (Romans 2:4).  So, the next time you hear of a Christian brother or sister struggling with sin, try resisting the urge to “pile on” and think to yourself, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  Ask the Lord to forgive him or her as 1 John 5:16 instructs us to do, and if you get a chance, offer a word of encouragement.  You don’t have to condemn the believer to prove that you don’t condone the behavior.