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Love comes first

– Monday of the 5th Week of Lent –

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to [Jesus], ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ [John 8:3-7]

In today’s text, Jesus walks with a woman along the line between love and truth.

Notice that Jesus ignores the woman’s accusers and gives all his attention to her. Her suffering and humiliation are palpable. Her life is on the line. The crowds have gathered, rocks in their hands, ready to sentence her to a painful and bloody death. She needs Jesus’ help, and he gives it to her. Yes, he will soon challenge her to ‘go and sin no more’, but that is not where he begins.

He begins by writing on the ground with his finger. He gets down into the dust, joining the woman there. Jesus begins his relationship with her not by chastising her, but by humbling himself before her and identifying with her. Then he attends to her immediate need; he saves her life. Only once she is out of danger does he speak to her of how her life may need to change.

This raises the obvious question: how often do we try to shortcut the process by jumping to the endpoint? Can we fall into the trap of being so keen to challenge people that we forget that that dimension must be left until after they have become thoroughly convinced of our love and our care for them? How many people do we turn off the practice of our faith by our premature judgement of how they are living? 

By Shane Dwyer

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