But for His Grace

East to West

Have you ever done something you wish you hadn’t, either because it was something you shouldn’t have done or because you didn’t consider the consequences before taking action?

This may seem like a strange opening to a Winsome Wednesday post, but today, I’d like to shift my focus to the idea of winsome faith and winsome love. Not mine, but that of Jesus.

So, again, I pose the question: have you ever done something you wish you hadn’t? Something stupid? Something careless? Something that hurt someone else or yourself? Something wrong, perhaps even illegal? I certainly have, and the range of offenses is wide and the incidences too great for me to provide a definitive number.

And because of these, I have known and felt shame and guilt and humiliation and isolation and judgment (mine and others’) and ostracism, sometimes for a moment, sometimes for much longer.

If not for the grace of God.

If not for the redeeming love of Christ.

If not for the blood of Jesus.

If not for the compassion of the Savior.

One of the pictures of Jesus that draws me to Him is the time the religious elite hoped to trap Him by bringing before Him a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). The Law of Moses said she should be stoned (of course, they used only the portion of the Law that fit their purpose, because the Law called for both the man and woman to be stoned, a part of the story for a different post).

The words of the story tell us this woman was caught in the act of adultery, so my guess is she was dragged into the crowd naked, humiliated, scared, guilty and ashamed.

Jesus addresses none of this. Instead, he stoops down and begins writing in the sand.

Jesus drawing in the sand

(this photo & the next courtesy of http://www.LumoProject.com)

When I was in eighth grade, I was sitting in my Geometry class as someone handed out a worksheet we were meant to complete in class. I didn’t receive one and, without a thought, responded with a phrase I’d heard often during my formative years. It was racist and derogatory and I repeated it without recognizing its true hurtful nature. It was only when two fellow students called me on my actions that I realized what I’d said and how it had been received by the African-American student one row over.

Even today, 35 years later, I still feel the shame of uttering those hurtful, racist words. I still feel the humiliation of my callous ignorance and stupidity and the strong desire to disappear from that crowd of fellow students.

So, when I approach this scene in which mean-spirited religious leaders have dragged this woman purposely into the midst of a crowd where she is so incredibly exposed and vulnerable and humiliated, Jesus’ actions allow me to breathe when I would typically hold my breath, sharing her scorn and feeling her shame.

close up finger drawing in sand

He does not condemn her. He forgives her. The only finger He points is the one with which He draws in the sand. He pulls attention away from her and dares her accusers to cast the first stone only if they are sinless.

Of course, each in turn drops his stone and skulks away because none of us are guiltless, save Jesus. And, then, even He does not convict her, but frees her from her sin and from the humiliation, shame, guilt, pain. He admonishes her to sin no more, but given this picture of winsome love and compassion, to me, His voice is soft and sure and His words cloaked in unconditional love: go and sin no more.

From racist comments spoken in ignorance to adultery to hurting, hating, judging, thinking better of ourselves than we ought, and myriad offenses, we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans3:23). Even so, Jesus loves us and forgives us and redeems us and removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.

If ever there were a winsome figure of faith, tis Jesus. And it is He who allows me to say boldly and with great confidence

there, but for the grace of God, go I

 

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