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Three-minute Takeaway

What part do we play in the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman?

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This week, our lesson focused on a story about a woman caught in adultery, and Jesus’ response both to her and her accusers. (You can listen to the full lesson here.) It’s a story that teaches us a lot not only about Jesus and his mission, but about our own need for grace and mercy.

The book of John tells the story of how Jesus came down to earth and took on human form, dwelt among us, and spoke with such authority that the religious leaders of the day decided that they needed to silence him any way they could.

They finally decided to try and trap him into making public statements that the teachers could then take to the government and use to portray Jesus as a troublemaker, someone who needed to be silenced before he stirred the people up into a violent revolt. The don’t seem particularly concerned about the woman, whom they caught in the act of sin, as their attention is focused on discrediting Jesus.

When the people demanded that Jesus render a judgment, he refused to take a stand on the question.

He simply told the accusers “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

But what did he mean by that? As with other passages, when the Bible doesn’t give us specific answers, we must look at context, as well as the full picture painted in the word of God. We can see enough of Jesus’ teachings in other areas to explain what he meant more clearly.

Did he mean that what this woman had done wasn’t wrong? No, because Jesus talked a lot about the sin of adultery, just like other violations of the law.

Did he mean that sin was no one’s business but that person and God? No, because Jesus himself said that if a brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

Jesus didn’t expect us to be sinless, but he DID expect that we be honest about whether we’re truly judging what he called “righteous judgment.”

That means examining our own hearts and taking an honest look at what we’re doing before we try to make a case against someone else.

Am I guilty of the same sin? Is my priority to save and to help, or to point out fault?

It’s important for us always to see ourselves in this story to keep from becoming an accuser with impure motives, who doesn’t care at all about following the law, but is more concerned with making ourselves feel holy.

We also should see ourselves in the accused – one who has been brought before our God condemned due to our own sin, worthy of death, with nothing to save us other than the mercy of the judge.

Thanks be to God, our judge is Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us and paid the penalty for our sin. We were bought with a price, and should live our lives in joy and humility, with an eye toward helping people escape just as we escaped, through the blood of Jesus.

How can Christians lead worthy lives?

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In Colossians 1:9-10, we read that Paul’s prayer for the Colossians – and for all Christians – is to live a life that is worthy of the Lord.

That seems odd to us in some ways, because we understand that we can’t earn our salvation, that we are saved by the grace of God and not through our own goodness or works.

We can never be good enough to deserve anything that God has done for us. So how can we be worthy?

“Worthiness” and “deserving” are not the same

I think the problem is that we associate worthiness with deserving, and that’s not really how we normally use those ideas. As with a lot of terminology, we understand the concepts in real life, but we don’t always apply those ideas when we read the Bible.

For example…

… we might observe a teenager who’s been given a Ferrari by his parents for his birthday, and he proceeds to drive it recklessly, bang into mailboxes, trash the interior with wrappers and dirt, ignore all the maintenance, and get into accident after accident — all the while boasting to anyone who will listen how great his car is and by extension, how great HE is, and how horrible his parents are for not getting him the special rims and accessories that he wanted. We would think, “Why is that car wasted on someone like that, who doesn’t appreciate what he’s been given?”

We would probably never say that any teenager has EARNED a Ferrari, but we might say that he shows gratitude in the way that he treats the vehicle, and in the way he responds to the parents who gave it to him. How I treat the gift itself, or how the gift changes my attitude or actions, reflects my attitude about the giver!

How does God’s gift change us?

That’s what Paul is saying to Christians. You’ve been given an immeasurable gift of grace in your salvation.

Paul describes in chapter 1 of Colossians who Jesus is, how exalted he is above all things — he is the image of God. He is the creator of all things. And he is the head of the body, which is the church. And yet that same Jesus has reconciled us to his body by his death, to present us holy and blameless and above reproach before him!

How do we live in view of that gift? Do we see it as sacred? Does it change the way we make decisions in our lives? The priorities we set? The way we spend our time and energy? Do we follow Jesus begrudgingly, always looking for shortcuts, excuses not to do things we know are pleasing to God, or looking for the absolute minimal level of commitment so that we can continue with the things we’d rather be doing with our lives?

A worthy life gives everything to God

Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20: “The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” That describes a life where we are totally committed to serving God above ourselves. Anything less is unworthy of the grace God has shown to us.

May God bless us all and give us the faith and resolve to live with that kind of gratitude in our lives and our hearts, so that we can serve God the way God deserves to be served.

Listen to the full lesson on YouTube here.

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