Where Are Your Accusers?

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Rerunning some of my favorites this August:

 

I grew up on cop and courtroom shows. I loved the drama of catching the bad guy or seeing a lawyer convince the jury, in commanding tones of injured justice, that the defendant was innocent. I planned to become a lawyer up until my last two years of college.

Having worked in a law office and served on a jury, I’m now aware that television doesn’t portray a courtroom exactly . . . accurately. There’s a lot less drama and a lot more drudgery. We don’t show justice quite as it happens. (But if you want to see a humorous video of all our favorite dramatizations, click here.)

This is nothing new. Courtroom scenes have always been played in different ways, sometimes in ways far from just.

Today’s story — and the question God asks—isn’t just a story about one person, or one trial. And it is so relevant to today’s world.

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 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 8.1-6)

 

So here’s the setting. A crowd. Jesus teaching. And what happens? This group of men interrupt the teaching (rude) to deposit a woman, most likely with little clothing, in the middle of the crowd. It’s wrong on so many levels.

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Most Embarrassing Moment

Have you ever been embarrassed in front of a group? I remember one particular 10th grade spelling bee. At some point, I looked across the room at my crush. And he was looking at me. I looked back. I flirted a little. I smiled, made eyes, and was generally overjoyed that he was looking right at me.

Until I realized that everyone was looking right at me. Because it was my turn. And the entire classroom had seen my awkward tenth-grade attempts at flirting.

I have no idea if I spelled the word correctly.

This woman is completely vulnerable, at risk, and humiliated. They’ve made sure of it.

The wording says they “put” her in front of the crowds. Like she is a stray fork or a plate of bad cafeteria food they can toss wherever they like. She is, in fact, their tool for entrapping Jesus. Little more.

She has no agency at all in this matter.

In a trial that should have been private and should, by law, have involved the guilty man as well, the men decide to make her shame public instead, because she fits their agenda.

Does this all sound vaguely familiar?

It’s the way women have always been treated. And Jesus isn’t having it.

Keeping the Law?

For men so intent on keeping the law, they break several.

1 —They could and should have brought her privately if they wanted a court judgement. They brought her in public, to shame her and challenge Jesus.  They wanted a dramatic lynching, and they wanted him holding the noose. It’s not about justice, and it’s not about her. She’s collateral damage.

2—They could and should have brought both guilty parties. Except a man would have demanded his rights. He would not have been as vulnerable. She had no rights. She was an easy target. People who want power choose easy, vulnerable, targets with no ability to make their own case.

3—They could and should have brought the required two witnesses forward immediately. Except, well, for two people to actually witness adultery? They had to see it at the same time and place and have the same story. In other words, they had to have set her up. No one accidentally witnesses adultery, certainly not two people. Yet these witnesses don’t materialize.

4—They could and should have tried to stop the sinner out of compassion. That was the law. Obviously, no one did. They watched and waited.

That’s just a start at the injustice of it all.

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Grace or Law?

It was a test of grace or law. Would Jesus lean too far toward grace—let her go— and break the law? Or would he lean too far toward law —agree to stone her—and invalidate all he’d taught?

Either way, the leaders are back in power. That’s the point.

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. (John 8.7-9)

They kept demanding an answer. They are impatient, wanting condemnation on their terms, their timeline.

Jesus Replies

Jesus gives his answer. Fine. Toss a stone. Throw it. Hard.

But only according to the law that you so carefully keep—the two witnesses have to go first. The crowd would know that was the law. The accusers would, too.

He demands that her accusers be the first to begin taking a life. If your testimony is absolutely truthful, he hints, this should not be hard. If you haven’t misrepresented anything, exaggerated, told one white lie—you’re good. Go ahead. Throw a rock.

And no one does.

Jesus is keeping law for them, but enacting mercy for her all at once.

Never cross Jesus when death is on the line.

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 8.10-11)

Didn’t even one of them condemn you?

The truth here, in Jesus’ beautiful question?

No one has power to call you guilty except the Lord of grace and truth.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 8.1-2)

Sometimes we are this woman.

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In this life, People will shame you, hurt you when you’re vulnerable, treat you like an object to use, humiliate you, judge and condemn you. I know they have.

But they don’t have the power to make that call. Don’t let them have that power.

Has no one condemned you? No, Lord.

In calling Jesus Lord, she is transferring power. She is admitting him as her master. And she is transformed. Her accusers no longer have power over her. They can’t bring her shame, judgment, or hurt. Only he can. But he doesn’t.

Look into face of your Lord. Hear his words. “Neither do I condemn you.” Let them cover you with grace and truth.

Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. (Romans 8.33-34)

No one has power to call you guilty except the Lord of grace and truth.

There is more to this story. We’ll get into it next week. For today, though, remember, shame has no place in God’s kingdom. The answer to Jesus question is—no one. No one can condemn us. Only Him. And he doesn’t. Let it transform you in all those deep places of fear, humiliation, and shame.

She is free at the end of the story, in more ways than one. He offers the same thing to all of us.

Men Prefer Women Who Love Jesus (but that’s not our goal, anyway)

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A blog post went viral this week. Not one of mine—I could wish. It was another one. Perhaps you saw it.

Men Prefer Debt Free Virgins without Tattoos.”

“Do you know how much more attractive debt-free virgins (without tattoos) are to young men?”

Well no, I don’t, because you never actually proved that point with any research at all. But I digress . . .

Perhaps it made you angry, or perhaps it made you feel shamed. I know it had me all up in my “smash the patriarchy” righteousness.

The premise of the blogger was simple: If young women want to be married, they should make themselves into the kind of woman Christian men want to marry. Presumably, debt-free virgins. But more importantly, according to The Transformed Wife, a young woman who has rejected an education while she waits for her man to supply her the thoughts, beliefs, and ideas she is supposed to have.

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(“The husband will need to take years teaching his wife the correct way to act, think, and live since college taught them every possible way that is wrong.”)

I used the barf emoji. Five times.

Because I know the Bible pretty well, I took issue with her theology.

Because I raised three daughters, I took issue with her philosophy.

Because I know my husband, I laughed uncontrollably at the idea that he was really looking for a woman with no ideas of her own when he accidentally fell in love with me instead.

If you were bewildered, enraged, or hurt by that post, please know that, while I have no objections to debt-free virgins (tattooed or not), being a transformed wife is not your goal. Here’s what I know.

God didn’t create you for the sole purpose of finding a man.

You are complete. You are whole. You are not waiting. Your life is now, not when someone else comes along to fulfill you and tell you what you need to know. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in his image, and there is nothing incomplete about that.  (Psalm 139.14, Genesis 1.27) )Nowhere in all of scripture does God tell women to wait for a man so that they can fulfill their purpose, except to wait for Jesus himself, who gives us all purpose with no exceptions and no hierarchies.

Whatever you do in this life–marriage, children, or not–do not sit around waiting for a day when you are good enough or complete enough to be used by God. That day is now.

God chooses women.

You are part of a long heritage of women of faith who stood on their own beliefs and their own ideas and used them to act. Esther. Ruth. Mary. Hannah. Deborah. Priscilla. Lydia. Miriam. The Hebrew midwives. Joanna. Abigail. The women at the tomb. The woman at the well. The unnamed hundreds who inhabited that world and never got “credit” this side of eternity but served God anyway with all they possessed. Not one of these women was passive. They were great actors in God’s story, with or without a man, and you are, too.

(I mean seriously, Abigail, you should be ashamed of your lack of submission to your man. Shouldn’t you? I guess God didn’t think so.  Don’t know the story? You really should read it.)

They were all born “for such a time as this,” (Esther 4.14) and so were you. They all defied the ethos of their culture, not because men would not or because they were unique or someone gave them their beliefs and ideals. They did it because God gave them his fire. He’s given it to you, too.

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God created you to uniquely further his kingdom as you, not as your husband’s helper.

God created women because he knew that humans need one another. It wasn’t good for one to be alone. God called woman “strong warriors” and “corresponding partners” in the task of making this world into his kingdom. We were created as equals—see the real translation of Genesis 2.

He put us beside men to do the work as a team, not as solo practitioners. It’s true—we cannot do this kingdom business alone. It’s not true that we can only be sidekicks to the real work. If you’re married, your husband’s calling is amazing—support it. Your calling is amazing, too. Find it. We need every person to use her gifts in the kingdom of God. It’s a travesty and downright blasphemy that so many things that could have been for the kingdom are not, because women have been hindered from changing the world in their way.

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There is no one between you and your Father.

No one. Jesus came and brought freedom and access. The curtain in the temple was torn in two. He did not do that and then tell the women standing around the cross, “Oh, hey, now go find a man who will explain all of this to you. I just broke down the barriers–but not for you. It wasn’t quite good enough for you.”

How insulting to our Savior. His sacrifice was not enough to break all the barriers of access to God and his word? Women still need a man to tell them what the Bible means? Nonsense. (I could use a stronger term, but . . . ) He has gifted you with his holy word to learn, treasure, keep in your heart, and obey. He says this is not too hard for anyone, and surely that includes all the women ever created.

Yes, Paul told women–uneducated, curious women–to ask their husbands what some things meant. To satisfy their craving to learn, not to quench it. To strengthen the bond of marital love and compatible faith, not to create a subservient, childish dependence.

More than that, he has gifted you with his Holy Word–the Word made flesh, to know, love, and obey. No gender requirements. You have access. Know and love your Savior, with all your heart, soul, strength, and glorious mind.

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God didn’t create you to be ashamed of who you are.

(Unless, of course, who you are is really a jerk.)

It doesn’t matter if you’re married or unmarried. College educated or GED. Childless or house filled. Loud or shy. Assertive or conflict avoidant. Old or young. Strong or slow to speak at all. God wants to use the woman he made for his purpose.

He didn’t give you a mind to only have it be filled with other peoples’ thoughts. He didn’t give you a heart to have its passion reined in by someone else’s ideas of where you should spend your time. He didn’t give you a desire for purpose in order to limit it to the sphere someone else tells you is the only one you can inhabit. God gave you dreams, and a big heart, and a curious mind. He likes you that way. Don’t ever let someone else tell you he can’t.

 

God loves you. He loves you so stinkin’ much he died for you. I truly believe that love is lost on people like this blogger. People who don’t experience the great, full love of Christ try to make up their acceptance by creating rules. They believe that if they make enough rules, and get enough people to follow them, they will find that acceptance they’re looking for.

It’s not different than the Romans or the Canaanites who tried so hard to appease their gods that they would do anything, even sacrifice their children, to be accepted.

I refuse to sacrifice my children. Or the young women who already teeter tenuously on the belief that maybe they’re not enough wherever they are. I won’t give up the women He has equipped to march headlong into his kingdom, ready to use themselves up for his cause, because someone told them they can’t on account of their gender.

I won’t make the sacrifice.

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Marriage and children are great gifts–but they are not destinies. And men? You are too wise and good to believe you are so shallow as to be intimidated by a smart woman pursuing her calling. We know better. We know this is insulting to you, too, and you are better people than that. We love you for it.

I pray that today you will find yourself drowning so deeply in the love of God that the only rule you need as a woman is to love him back. Oh, the places you’ll go.