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How Should the Church Handle Adultery?

God’s mercy provides a way out…do we?
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In John 8:1-12, an adulterous woman was brought to Jesus by the scribes and the Pharisees; for the sake of this article we will call them "church people." The church people told Jesus that this woman was "caught in the act of adultery" (John 8:4). The church people quoted the laws of Moses that demanded punishment for this woman. They asked Jesus, "What do you say?" They were not really concerned about the sin of the woman, the missing man, or even the law of Moses; they had concerned themselves with how to tempt Jesus.

I love how Jesus addressed this very delicate matter. Jesus stooped to the ground, and with his fingers wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. As a child, I imagined Jesus writing, "What about you, what have you done?" The Bible tells us that the scribes and Pharisees continued to address the adulterous sin of this woman before Jesus. As always, Jesus spoke with conviction and redemption: "All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!" (John 8:7).

I find it amazing that even in the body of Christ today, when a person is overtaken in a fault or sin, rather than restore them as Paul admonishes us in Galatians 6:1, we expose their sin to others. Worse, we expose their sin to the world, often through social media.

If we follow the example of Jesus, we see nothing of the sort. We see Jesus covering this precious woman with love and mercy. The Bible declares, "Love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8b). As Jesus delivered his convicting words to the scribes and Pharisees, and stooped down again and wrote on the ground, something happened on the inside of those church people.

Convicted by Our Own Conscience

John 8:9 declares, "When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman." I am convinced that if the members of the body of Christ were more convicted of our own conscience, we would less likely deliver our brothers and sisters up to be punished. If the light of God's Word shined in some of our very "dark" places, we would find grace easier to extend. Not only did her accusers leave, but there was no one there to accuse her. Jesus' final response to this woman is both incredible and convicting: "Neither do I [condemn you]. Go and sin no more" (John 8:11).

Jesus' final word to this adulterous woman gives a death blow to the self-righteous heart in the body of Christ. The self-righteous heart in the church is evident when we as believers seek to bring justice to every sin without taking the time to see the sinner. How can we let adultery go unpunished? Is it easy? Of course not, but the church must follow the example of our Savior. How can it be that Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in the act of adultery? Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost. Well, what about believers who commit adultery? Jesus came to redeem all of us back to God; he desires that no one perish.

November21, 2013 at 8:15 AM

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