Caught in the Act
The woman caught in the act of adultery...we’ve all been like her before - caught up doing something we knew we had no business doing. Whether it was the enemy working through others or working through our own conscience, we’ve been condemned, humiliated, shamed and brought forth for stoning.
For some reason we have this natural inclination that extreme punishment is always necessary when rules are broken. We see God as One Who operates the same way. Although just consequences are inevitable when wrongs are committed, we leave out some key characteristics of God when we think of how He handles sinners - patience, love, grace and mercy. All of these come into play when He deals with our sins.
When we fall into sin, many of us respond like Adam rather than like David. We run and hide ourselves from God’s Presence instead of entering His Presence with repentance. We allow our sin to separate us from God rather than us drawing closer to Him for cleansing.
Adam said he hid “because I was naked” (Genesis 3:10)...Just like this woman in John 8 was caught naked physically, emotionally and spiritually when committing sin.
In Genesis 3, once Adam has sinned, God calls out to him and holds a conversation with him and Eve. He asks each of them what they’ve done. I’d like to believe that because Adam and Eve didn’t run to their Father to confess their sins (due to fear and shame), God met them where they were and questioned them as a way to lead them to confess their faults to Him. They receive consequences but He doesn’t shun them, shame them or condemn them - He held a conversation with them - as with the woman caught in the act in John 8. The Pharisees thought they were bringing the woman forward for humiliation and stoning but what they didn’t realize was they were forcing her to confess her sins to the Redeemer. Here I am reminded of 1 John 1:9 which says, if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God is just and sin is worthy of punishment, however, God is rich in patience, love, grace and mercy. He doesn’t wish that any should perish.
“The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9 HCSB
Jesus doesn’t condemn the woman as the crowd would like. Instead, He publicly defends her. He instructs that he who is without sin, cast the first stone. He turned everyone’s focus from the public sin of the woman to their own personal private sins. He knew very well the sins of all those condemning the woman but didn’t expose others just as He didn’t entertain the exposure of this woman’s sin. He simply called on all to reflect on their own ways. Once everyone walked away, humbled by the realization that they too deserved stoning, Jesus entered a conversation with the woman. He ends this dialogue with, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin anymore.” Such a simple exchange that I’m sure changed the course/trajectory of her life for all eternity.
I believe we have the tendency to hide from God because of guilt, shame and the fear that He will condemn us, stone us or shame us. We feel disgusted and disappointed with ourselves - and those around us have no problem expressing the same sentiments. We don’t see how God could possibly forgive us because we can’t forgive ourselves. We feel there’s no coming back from this or God will forever hold it over our heads. We project our disgust and disdain with ourselves onto God. We judge how God will treat us based off of how others have treated us. Well, I came here to tell you that Jesus doesn’t follow the status quo. He doesn’t jump on the stoning bandwagon. The purpose of throwing stones is to kill not bring to repentance. Christ is all about repentance and reconciliation. It’s what He died and rose for us to experience. He doesn’t go with the majority vote. When others criticize, He holds a conversation. Where others condemn, He convicts.
You see, there’s a difference between conviction and condemnation. Learning the difference between the two will help free you.
We must grow in our understanding of how God views us and how He handles us when we stumble so that our first instinct becomes one of running to Him instead of running from Him. In His arms is forgiveness. In His Presence are redemption and healing. When we run from Him, we run from love, we run from grace, we run from mercy. Only in Him can we be cleansed and made whole.
We don’t have to be far removed from the sin before coming back in God’s Presence. There’s isn’t a waiting period for grace and forgiveness. The woman in John 8 was fresh out of sin - caught IN the act - and she still received forgiveness. As soon as you fall, run to God with your sins. Don’t hide them from Him (as if that’s even possible). Don’t give the enemy time to whisper doubts and lies in your ear. Go straight to your Father and allow Him to clean you and make you whole.
You are not going to always get it right. God knows that, satan knows that as well and seeks to use the moments we stumble as opportunities to pull us away from the only One Who can redeem our fall. Don’t “fall” for the trap.
No matter how many times you fall into sin, keep getting back up and running to the Father. Every time you do, the enemy loses. Pray and ask God to reveal to you why you may be struggling with the same sin. Ask Him to help strengthen your desire for His Word and your love for Him. As we grow in our love and desire of the things of God, our discipline and obedience to Him will strengthen as well.
As my First Lady says,
“The struggle with sin is not a discipline issue, it’s a heart issue. We only do what we love.
Our love for God is linked to our obedience to His commands.”
- Pastor Christina B. Lynch
(John 14:21, 23)
We are drawn away by our own evil desires (James 1:14). We aren’t tempted to do what we have no interest in. We must ask God to change our interests. We must fall in love with God, the Word of God and the things of God. Our love for Him must be greater than our flesh’s desire for the things of this world or we will stumble every time.
This isn’t to say that we will ever reach a point in our walk on this side of Heaven that we will be without sin. This is to say that as we grow in Christ, we shouldn’t continue to fall into the same temptations over and over again and we shouldn’t fall into sin as frequently/prevalently. Nonetheless, whenever you stumble, whatever you stumble over and whatever you stumble into, as a child who‘s fallen runs to their parent, you too can and are encouraged to get up, run to Christ and allow Him to dust you off.