Did She? — November 16, 2011

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The story is clear. (I must give props to the Bible for always being fairly candid about its characters and not trying to make them look better than they are to promote the idea of righteousness.) In the story we are told that a woman was brought to Jesus who was caught in the act of adultery.  In other words, there is no possibility that she was framed, was part of a ploy to trick Jesus or even that she was merely necking behind the stable. No, this was a really nasty situation about “doing the nasty.”

You know the rest of the story. The scribes and Pharisees wanted to stone her because that’s what the law of Moses commanded. Actually, if you understand the history of the period, the Romans had forbidden the Jewish populace to execute anyone without permission from the state. But there was still the possibility that some vigilantes might grab an errant soul, take him or her out behind the Mount of Olives and rock their world. So this woman was in some danger from this group of religious fanatics who were determined to achieve two goals: (a) prove that they were willing to kill a woman to honor God; and (b) tempt Jesus by making him side with the woman and end up looking soft on theology and maybe even too weak towards females.

I repeat. Nasty business.

Jesus takes a moment and tells the scribes and Pharisees that if they want to stone the woman, that they should do so only if they, themselves, had no sin. Long story made shorter–they all leave and Jesus is left alone with this woman who was caught in adultery.

But what happens next? Jesus asks her if anybody has condemned her.  She says, “No man, Lord.” His reply? “I don’t condemn you either, but go and sin no more.” It is a statement that satisfies neither conservatives or liberals. Conservatives would like a little bit more edge of rebuke and liberals may not be quite pleased that Jesus brings  any judgment whatsoever to her by asking her to stop her sinning.

But what I’d like you to focus on is this: did she? Did she walk away from that near-death experience, only saved by the gracious cleverness of Jesus of Nazareth, and swear off immoral affairs? Was that her determination? Well, here’s what I am sure of:

1.  The laws of religion would kill her, giving her no pathway to repentance.

2. Those who believe in intervention would insist that such a traumatic encounter as this near-stoning would be enough to stimulate change.

3. The zealous Christians of our day would put forth the notion that merely coming into the presence of Jesus transformed the woman into a new creature.

4. Common-sense individuals would say that she, having been scared to death, would refrain from her activities for a season, only to resume them again when the impact of the event had faded from her consciousness.

Now, here’s what I think Jesus believed–I think Jesus believed that the law, without mercy, always ends up killing people–emotionally, mentally, spiritually or physically. I think he also felt that condoning sin was not an attack on God, but rather, giving people license to commit suicide. And I believe Jesus knew that God, social pressure, intervention or even knowledge do not prevent people from being nuts. It is a decision they must come to on their own.

Jesus gave this woman a chance to have her moment with herself. Religion would have robbed her of this moment, destroying her on the spot. Jesus weighed in by saying that her lifestyle was sinful–but that there was no condemnation in his heart for her.  Yet she was destroying herself in the process.

If you want to know how to help people, you must be willing to take away the sting of judgment and replace it with the commonsense of human growth. Then it’s up to them.

There are many things I do not believe in and don’t like. Many of my family members and friends still participate in these activities at will. There are two things they do know–I love them and do not condemn them, but I feel that they are doing harm to themselves. Is that enough evangelizing on my point to create change in them? It is irrelevant.  I do not create change in people. It is my job, through mercy, to save them from judgment and to challenge them to excellence.

Did the woman go and sin no more? Well, it wouldn’t have been because she was afraid.  Fear passes.  It wouldn’t be because she had an encounter with God, because her face-to-face with the Divine was based upon grace, not self-realization. And it wouldn’t be because Jesus gave her some mystical stare that translated her into a new woman, because Jesus was just a man, filled with the Spirit and no more. It would have to be because this woman came to herself and decided to stop the foolishness.

So here’s what you do with all your friends who really distress your soul with their activities: take away the judgment, give them mercy, but let them know how you stand on the issue. 

And then say that wonderful prayer: “Into your hands, Father, I commend their spirit.”

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Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

 

Jonathan sings “Let”

 

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

 

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Your views on the woman at the well makes me think how we, caring and loving human beings, need to relate effectively to people whose behavior and attitudes, their character, needs to change. I’m reminded of the common sense point that people will live up or down to expectations tthem. You may have heard this, but one evidence is that there are more “Lawrences” or Larrrys become lawyers, and people whose last name is doctor, one study showed, became doctors. So, applying this insight, criticizing people in a mean-spirited way, with words or actions, I think deepens the cranial grooves in their gray matter, entrenching them in their own negative behavior — making it even harder for them to change. Jesus gave a positive, optimistic answer in additon to lettering have time along with herself. That time alone is so important but that time should be, I quality time without memory of demeaning echoes of derision. Enjoy your thots so much. Mark and I wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving.

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