Grace and Truth: Part I

For a while, I was content to view John 8:1-11 as a commentary on (and exclusive to) sexual sin. Not on purpose; I think that’s just kind of what happened in my head. You know the story. It’s a familiar one. Jesus defends the adulteress woman, saving her life from her would be stone-throwers. And I don’t know what the impetus was for such a thought, but about two years ago I realized I could no longer buy into the idea that this passage was only applicable to adultery. Closer study of John’s Gospel only solidifies this belief of mine.

Consider that this story was most likely not part of the original manuscript, and many scholars believe it was added later. How do you determine where in John to place this story? Hard to say, but in class we noted that it is bookended by two statements pertaining to “right judgment.” The first is 7:24, where Jesus says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” The second is 8:15-16; he says, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right.” Could it be possible that Christ’s encounter with the adulteress woman serves as an illustration of Jesus exhibiting right judgment in everyday life, an example for us to emulate? If so, two questions remain: 1) how do you make a right judgment, and 2) what areas of life do we need to let this mindset envelop?

Christ lays the groundwork for how to do this in his interaction with the woman, a high measure of both grace and truth on display in his words and actions. The grace comes from his freeing statement of “neither do I condemn you” and the fact that he doesn’t pick up a rock and chunk it. At the same time, though, he admonishes her with a statement of truth, and does not slough over what she has done when he says, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Recall also that we are called in 8:15 to not “judge by human standards.” If we are to appropriately judge someone, we must first have a mindset like Christ’s (but that’s impossible, so apparently we’re not supposed to judge period). A mindset that does not dabble in condemnation is to be our attitude towards others and must affect every aspect of our life. Why every aspect? Because Christ did, and we are called to that same plateau of grace, and even though it’s impossible to achieve, it’s worth aspiring to with all our effort. It should cover every action, blanket each word, layer all thoughts, and swathe any feelings that arise within us.

And so this attitude is a lifestyle and applies to so much more than just sexual sin. Consequently, it causes many facets of life to be viewed in a new light, some for the first time. We begin to call into question current and past prejudices, stereotypes, and hard-and-fast rules from which we normally wouldn’t budge. This realization initiated a re-examining of an issue that began (and continues) to trouble me, which will be the focus of the next piece on Tuesday.

I know this post isn’t like the others in that it doesn’t provide much food for thought (although, if you are stirred to say something, by all means, say it); its purpose is more to set up Tuesday’s post, which will be longer than usual because it’s hard to fit everything needing to be said in just 500 words. I hope you will come back at that time.

Much love.

  1. Sarah Kyle said:


    This story is one of my favorites. I think you are absolutely correct in saying that this doesn’t just apply to sexual sin. We are called to show grace to people, just as Christ did.

    I think this story is an excellent example of how we should act when the people around us falter. Rather than condemning them and cutting them out of our lives, we are called to be Christ to them: to realize that we ourselves are not without sin, but to also urge them to move beyond their sin and give their lives to Christ.

    Great post, Nelson. Keep them coming!

  2. S.DuBose said:

    Nelson, I am always comforted by the compassion Jesus shows the woman in this passage. He, being divine, was able to see her heart and the hearts of her accusers. Being raised in an environment where compassion was not consistent, I have been challenged to develop that quality in my life. I once heard a man speak who was involved in ministering to inmates in a prison say his definition of compassion was, “It could have been me.” I have found that when I’ve had the tendency to be judgmental and condemning,which we all do, that I think of what that man said, “It could have been me.” It helps in the way I view that person or incident. If affects my prayers. I pray that it will affect my words and actions. Not only towards that person or incident but also when conversing about it with others.

  3. Ron Mallonee said:

    What a master story teller and communicator our Savior is. It seems to me that the use of the adulteress had little to do with the story other than Jesus used an example of a very objectionable act and the vehicle to make the point. It doesn’t matter if it is adultery or not showing compassion to someone down on their luck. It IS all about us assuming God’s responsibility of being the judge. How presumptuous can we be to even think we can do that when we can’t even honestly judge ourselves.

  4. Eileen Chapman said:

    About the comment, “it could have been me”…how about “it is me.” Apart from Christ I am nothing. All my goodness is like filthy rags my pride definitely goes before my fall. But praise God, He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. We are walking wounded in the church, and the sooner we realize it, the quicker we can take those death rags off the ones who are still dead in their sin. We must be real with the world. Only God is sufficient for ALL our needs.

  5. True, true. I think the first step in knowing how to judge any kind of situation is to be able to admit our own fallibility and prejudices. Once there, the next step is pretty obvious: provide exactly what that person doesn’t deserve; do exactly what every human bone in your fleshly body says is wrong and unfair to do. Then pray for the courage to do whatever is speaks loudest “Grace and Truth.”

  6. Daniel Betten said:


    I think you hit the nail on the head. Christ is the Judge, we are to keep each other accountable but we need to let God be the judge. The difference lies in the role, a judge looks at the situation and makes a judgement and either declares the person innocent or gives out a sentence, and who are we to judge a person’s heart and motives when we are so limited in our understanding of each other. However, we are commanded to keep each other accountable so that we might help each other to see our blind spots. As a Christian society we place judgements on the worldly society as if we had any right to judge people, especially those that aren’t subjecting themselves to Christ. We call out certain types of people and say they have no right to do what they are doing based on what we believe the Bible says instead of considering if it is constitutional. But thats probably what you are wanting to talk about on Tuesday.

  7. d.burrows said:

    It is difficult for me even on my very “best” days to not automatically pidgeonhole as well as prioritize everyone I meet. It seems that many humans, myself in particular, are goal-oriented creatures; thus, everyone we come into contact with is subconciously placed into a category according to what they could contribute to that goal and we deal with them accordingly. Now, GOD created me to be a goal-oriented creature in order that I might effectively set about the tasks HE has for me in this world; however, you bring an important point–that we must balance that goal-oriented mindset with the realization that Christianity is about love and thus relationships. I had a HU professor once tell me “essentially Christianity boils down to relationships, both vertically and horizontally.” Of all that I took from the professors there at HU, that is one of the things that runs deepest and, in my opinion, most true. I feel that when the day comes for us all to be judged, GOD will look at how we interacted with the people in our lives; did we in turn show them the love that HE so graciously showed to us? Where would we be if HE had not stopped and come to save us? Thus, your point is quite valid, we must balance our GOD given goal-oriented drive with our need to show love in our daily relationships no matter who they are with–whether the proverbial saint or sinner, whether they are going to be a stepping stone to our goal or merely a coincidental encounter.

  8. Justin said:

    Judging is an interesting topic. I think the main reason as humans we are forbidden to judge is our limited perspective. As an omnipotent God he can understand all points of view. Because of of our backgrounds, childhoods, personal experiences, and own limitations we tend to judge things unfairly.

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