Jesus’ compassion and gentleness for a hurting woman

The tragic and disgusting stories keep coming of men harassing and abusing women. I’ve been reminded of what a stark contrast it is the way Jesus treats women.

In the Gospel of John, chapter eight, we read of a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. She wasn’t totally innocent, but it does appear she was being used and abused by powerful men. The religious leaders and the teachers of the law were trying to catch Jesus in a trap. The Jewish law of that day said a woman caught in adultery was to be stoned. The leaders thought if they brought a guilty woman before Jesus He would either look weak on the law if He said not to stone her, or He would look cruel and heartless if He said go ahead and throw the rocks. Jesus saw through their scheme and had the perfect, wise response. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). The leaders had to walk away, and Jesus was left alone with the woman. Jesus told her He didn’t condemn her and He invited her to envision new possibilities and live a new life: “Go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 11).

The man who was also guilty of adultery is not mentioned in the story. You wonder if he was maybe one of the leaders, or at least was probably a friend of theirs. They didn’t make a big deal about his guilt, just the woman’s. It was all very likely a set up. The woman was probably being taken advantage of and just being used by powerful men who protected their own. Sadly it sounds like how things often go today.

As the story concludes Jesus is with the abused, mistreated, ashamed, humiliated and powerless woman. The seemingly powerful, hypocritical, judgmental men are furious with Jesus and trying to figure out how to get Him out of the picture.

Today Jesus’ followers should still be attracting, welcoming, building up and encouraging the kind of people that were drawn to Jesus. Those who were impressed with their own morality and goodness and craved earthly power and wealth were not comfortable around Jesus. A church that clearly presents God’s law and gospel will make those same kind of people uncomfortable today as well.

Jesus drew to Himself those who knew their own sin and had been humbled and beaten down by the trials of life. They were desperately searching for hope and love. I pray it would be similar today. May those who have been abused by the powerful and harassed by the hypocritical find congregations that love them the way Jesus does and treat them with Christlike compassion and gentleness.

Jesus certainly did not seek cozy relations with the powerful in an effort to advance some political agenda. He sought to gently encourage the hurting and the humble. In this world where we see so much of the ugliness of sin, it is so refreshing and life-giving to be able to look to the beauty of Jesus.

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