I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately, as have a lot of us, I imagine. And my thoughts have led me to Jesus, how he would love, what he would do if he were walking among us today. I’ve thought of several stories of his life, how he walked among the unbelievers of his day and my mind wandered to the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery.
I’ve printed the whole story here because I think it’s important.
8 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 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.
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 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. 7 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!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
9 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?”
11 “No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
When I thought of this story I thought of myself, 16 years old, unmarried and pregnant. In ancient times, Jewish people could be stoned for a lot of offenses. Yes, for being gay, or having an affair, or being 16 and pregnant. If I lived in those times, I would be dead and so would my beautiful daughter Amanda. That was the law. The law is unbending and unforgiving. The law brings death. God gave the law to the Jews so that they could see that they could never follow it perfectly and were in need of a Savior. A Savior who brought grace into the picture. He didn’t nullify the law–he simply turned the law around and made it a mirror. They had to look at themselves and realize that they also were law-breakers.
When the mirror of the law is held up to me, I have no room for throwing rocks. When the mirror of grace is held up to me, I see how very much I’ve been forgiven, and I would be a hypocrite to hold others to a higher standard.
The answer is and always has been Christ. He set such an amazing example to believers of how we are to walk among unbelievers. He broke bread with those that were considered the worst sinners of the day. When he was with them he showed in action and in words that he was the way to life. He bent low and washed the feet of his disciples during the Passover dinner (John 13) just before he was crucified. But he didn’t only wash the feet of the disciples that loved him, he also washed the feet of the one who betrayed him.
That’s love. Serving others, especially those that don’t believe. Someone who is an unbeliever may never listen to anything I have to say, but if I meet their need and love the way that Jesus loved then I have a chance. I’ve heard stories of our missionaries in Nepal who are ministering tirelessly to those injured in the earthquakes there. And there have been people who have come to Christ because their needs were met. The question is can I lay down my pride and wash the feet of someone who needs it?
So, how did Jesus love? Matthew 26:39 says, “39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Jesus didn’t live for himself, he lived for others and died so that they could be reconciled to God. Being fully man and fully God, he knew exactly what he would have to suffer in order to do that. That’s why he prayed if there was any possible way to avoid this cup of unbelievable suffering let it be taken from him. And then he suffered because it was the only way.
Fear, futile arguing, insults, hate: those aren’t the ways of Christ. Those are the ways of the ruler of this world. Love, prayer, humility, bending low: those are the ways of Christ.
“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
The message of the cross is sacrificial love. Bending low. Humbling ourselves. Not making our opinion the most important thing, but making the Great Commission the most important thing. One way to bend low is to look up. Look up and see the people around you that need Jesus. They need to know that Jesus loves them and died for them so that they can be reconciled to God. So that they can be a recipient of this great grace that we as believers have received. So that they can walk in freedom. Not freedom to sin, but freedom from sin in this life, and freedom from the consequences of sin in the life to come.