Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

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Surprised by Grace

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. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

 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. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:3-11

The story is so familiar. The woman caught in adultery was a scapegoat, used as an attempt to test Jesus. The religious leaders—smugly and arrogantly convinced of their superiority—drug the woman before Jesus to see how He would respond.

We only see a glimpse of this scene as it plays out before us, and it leaves so many unanswered questions. If she was caught in the act, where is the man? Why was only the woman humiliated? What did Jesus write in the dust? Was He outing the religious leaders and their sins? Did He write some Scripture that would have condemned them?

Perhaps, for me, the biggest question looms: What happened to the woman after such tremendous grace was poured out over her?

We don’t know how her life was impacted by the grace and mercy Jesus showed her. We know He simply told her to go and sin no more, but how did her life change? Did she become a believer? Did she bring her whole village to Jesus? Did she change her life and choose to follow Jesus? Or did she continue in her adulterous ways?

We don’t know the woman’s name. We don’t know much other than she was caught in adultery. Maybe that’s the way the Father wanted the story to end, to leave it up to our imagination. Maybe He wanted us to extend similar grace to others to see how they responded so we could imagine how this woman responded.

Maybe she was the woman who later anointed Jesus feet with perfume, wiping his feet with her hair. Maybe she stood at the foot of the cross, tears streaming down her face as the one man who had shown her true love was crucified before her eyes. Maybe she was one of the women who went to the tomb after Jesus death to anoint His body and was given the opportunity to share the good news that He was risen.

Have you ever had incredible grace poured out over you? Have you ever had the opportunity to lavish undeserved mercy on someone?

What impact did it have on you? On those to whom you showed such extravagant grace?

The last few weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed with concern for some close to me. I see them making some poor choices, and I wish I could rescue them. But I can’t. I have to live my life and allow them to live theirs—and trust God to never stop fighting for them.

But one thing I can do is show lavish grace. I can love in spite of their choices. I can express my care and concern while extending a gracious love and acceptance of them as people. I can deal with the log in my eye before I focus on the speck in theirs

I can follow Jesus’ example and refuse to condemn.

And in some small ways, I have been able to do just that. To love in spite of poor choices. To allow them to live their own lives on their terms even when I disagree. To express my unconditional love and acceptance.

Do you know what? The results have been beyond anything I could imagine. Attitudes have changed. Anxiety has diminished. Kindness has been extended. Cooperation has improved. The entire atmosphere of the relationship has changed. It’s like we are dealing with new people, people who have been longing for unconditional love and acceptance.

I’m certain the woman caught in adultery had her life changed in that brief encounter with Jesus. I’m willing to bet her attitude changed. She suddenly had a genuine desire to walk in obedience, to love God. Her desire to be like Him flowed from a heart that had been changed by grace and love.

And that’s why the Father allows free will. He wants our obedience to flow from hearts that want to follow Him. He will never force Himself upon us because that’s not true love. His grace is all about compelling us to love Him simply for who He is.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve experienced His forgiveness for mistakes you don’t even want to mention, things you did in your past. Maybe He’s been there to hold you up when everything in your life was falling apart. Maybe you’ve felt His tender comfort in the midst of excruciating losses. Maybe He’s provided for even your smallest needs when you were lost and wandering in the wilderness.

In those tender moments, your heart is forever changed by His grace. Your soul is drawn to Him in an intimacy you’ve never known. You can’t stop the smile from slipping across your face as you reflect on all He’s done for you, how He has lavished you with undeserved grace and unconditional love.

Oh, the joy He brings!

Maybe you don’t understand because you’ve never experienced that kind of grace and love. Please, don’t give up. Run to the Father. Surrender your all to Him. Ask Him to show you His heart toward you, a heart that longs to pour out His grace over you. Let Him draw you near, show His love, earn your love and affections.

And please, as Christians…let’s stop pointing fingers and judging others. Let’s follow the example of our Savior, the One who was an expert at extending grace and unconditional love. Instead of condemning, let’s show those around us that we will love recklessly. Let’s focus on removing the log in our own eyes while we let God deal with others in His time and in His way.

May others know we are Christians by our love.