“They cheated on me. They were caught in adultery.” What is the first thing you think about when you hear those statements? Do you want to condemn, judge, or hate? Perhaps you feel are hurt, denial, or even the desire for revenge? In John 8:1-12 we see a woman caught in adultery that was brought to Jesus. Now, it takes two people to commit adultery and why the man wasn’t brought to Jesus I’ll never understand – what a double standard! Nevertheless, this guilty woman has been brought to Jesus for Him to deal with. She has been placed in front of Him not long after being taken from the sexual encounter. Some scholars think she was brought from the very act and not even given time to redress herself. The Law of Moses (Leviticus 20:10) stated she should be stoned. This punishment, however, was usually reserved though for someone who had been previously caught and warned in adultery. This meant she was most likely a repeat offender. So, not only has she done this once it seems she had not been repentant the previous time and is “back to her old ways”. Multiple affairs really hurt.
Jesus’ response was, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Does this mean, “Everyone sins, stop judging her”? Not at all. Jesus was not being soft on sin. He was saying, “Judge righteously” just as he had told them in John 7:19-24. He was really saying gently help restore her, not kill her. Not only does he answer their question he does something very strange. He stoops down and begins to write in the dirt. How odd! Is He avoiding the question? Is He looking away from a lady who could be barely dressed being taken from the act of adultery? Maybe. But Jesus is writing in the dirt to portray the divine command of God concerning sin – written by the finger of God. Jesus was telling us God’s response was His response and should be our response as well. Jesus was saying everyone sins, no one is innocent, and we should act with mercy and understanding when approaching people in sin (Galatians 6:1-2). These Pharisees were out for blood, vengeance, and embarrassment not restoration, grace, and truth. Their condemnation of this sin probably took the emphasis off of their own sins. Oh how we love to point out the sins of others as well. Jesus was also reminding them of Deuteronomy 17:2-7 which said the accusers must be the ones to cast the stones. When Jesus looked up from writing in the dirt, no one was there to accuse or throw stones anymore.
Jesus wasn’t soft on the sin of adultery. He told her to, “Go and sin no more” (verse 11). He was not there to condemn her but to liberate her. Later in John 8 He would say, “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed” (36). He did not come to condemn the world but to save (John 3:16-21). Although guilty, she was forgiven and extended love and mercy. How much do we need mercy and forgiveness – even in the “worst” of sins? Jesus said they should “judge righteously” (John 7:24). This means always uphold truth of Scripture, call sin what it is, but love someone through the process towards repentance and restoration to the Lord. While someone who commits adultery needs to repent and change, cautious consideration must also be given for a slow reconciliation and rebuilding of trust. This breach of trust is the highest possible in a marriage and healing will take much time. But God can do it as forgiveness, repentance, and the extension of grace and love have their work in both spouses. If adultery has happened in your marriage, don’t be so quick to “stone them and kill the relationship”. Get some biblical counseling. Give God time to move, them time to repent, and you time to heal.
Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.