Spiritual Life

God reaches us with forgiveness, not sharp-edged judgment

He arrived in the temple courts at first light, but people somehow anticipated his coming. A crowd quickly gathered around him.

Sitting down right where he was, he began to teach them about God and his ways. It was like an impromptu church service — or maybe a Sunday school class. But Jesus knew the hearts of those who crowded near, jostling one another. He knew the eager listeners, those really seeking truth, and he knew the haters, too — those who looked for a way to trap and destroy him.

These enemies weren’t novices or newbies. They were respected community leaders responsible for teaching, modeling and leading others in God’s ways. But not on that day. It was soon evident they weren’t there to learn new truths about God as the sun came up and flooded the temple courts with light. They were there to gut this new upstart teacher. And they were there to condemn and kill.

John captures the moment like this:

“As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. (John 8:3-6, NLT)

The leaders wanted judgment. They wanted their pound of flesh. As they threw down the terrified woman in front of the staring crowd, they also threw down their charges.

But something happened as they stooped down to pick up sharp-edged rocks of judgment.

The Bible says that “Jesus stooped down.” He stooped down to write something — we don’t know what — in the dirt. And in a moment or two, He would stoop down to lift a disgraced and despairing woman to her feet.

That scene leaves me breathless. Maybe it’s because I remember when he stooped to pick me up. His love, his forgiveness, his grace, and his correction changed my life and my forever.

In 1947, Marion Easterling, Thomas Wright and J. F. B. Wright wrote a country gospel song called, “When He Reached Down His Hand for Me.” Johnny Cash recorded it in 1962, and I don’t think anyone ever sang it better.

“When the Savior reached down for me. When he reached down his hand for me, I was lost and undone without God or his Son when he reached down his hand for me.”

Now you may understand why this scene leaves me breathless.

Saturated with the scriptures as they were, these leaders — more than anyone! — should have known the power and wonder of God’s forgiveness. Instead, they had an unyielding greed to be right — which led to an inescapable lack of humility and grace.

You know the story, as they kept demanding an answer, he finally stood up and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7, NLT). They weren’t expecting that. Not at all.

One by one they dropped their stones and slipped away in the morning light. Jesus lifted the woman to her feet, saying, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11, NKJV).

He reached down his hand, but not to pick up a stone. He reached down with compassion, love, and forgiveness. He reached down to restore and encourage and set someone on the right path.

He did that for me, too. I’m a fool if I ever forget it.

Rev. Micah Smith is president and founder of Global Gateway Network www.globalgatewaynetwork.org with offices in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email lluginbill@tricityherald.com.