What is Grace?
“…Jesus straightened up and asked
her, “Woman, where are they? Has no
one condemned you?” 11 “No one,
sir,” she said. “Then neither do I
condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go
now and leave your life of sin” (John
John tells us a story of the woman who was “caught” in the act of
adultery. We are not really sure if she was literally caught. Why?
Because some biblical commentators suggest that it was a staged case
or a plot. Some commentators say, this was an innocent woman who
was standing by the roadside and she was taken against her will by the
religious leaders of the day in order to trap Jesus into saying that the Law
of Moses did not matter (Jn. 8:6). Others argue that she was an actual
prostitute. Again, the religious leaders saw this situation as a “win-win”
opportunity for them. If Jesus did not defend her, then they could stone
the prostitute. And if Jesus defended her, then they could stone Jesus.
Remember, in Jn. 5:1-18, the religious leaders were looking for ways to
discredit and kill Jesus. And they found a way in this woman.
As we read this story, we start to understand that it could be possible: it
was a plot. How so? Here is one red flag: “Where was the man who was
involved in the act with this woman?” Did he escape? Could he be hiding
in the crowd of the accusers? Why was he not also arrested? For
according to the Law of Moses, both the man and the woman were to be
stoned to death. In fact, Deut. 22:22 says, “If a man is found sleeping
with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman
must die. You must purge the evil from Israel”. The Bible is completely
silent on the fate of the man (Lev. 20:10).
Let us assume she was literally caught in the act, that means she
deserved to die according to the Law. Now, we understand, before she
was stoned to death, the woman’s accusers brought her before Jesus,
expecting Him to pronounce judgment on her. Surprisingly, Jesus asked
them if there was one among them without sin to throw the first stone.
The story tells us they all left one by one beginning with the eldest person
in that crowd. I like this part because as we grow older, we become
aware of how much we have messed up. No one could do what Jesus
requested them to do. After they had all left, Jesus left with the woman
on a one on one situation. He told her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go
now and leave your life of sin” (Jn. 8:11). In other translation, it simply
says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more”.
Now, this woman is guilty. She is speechless. She knows, she deserves
to die. She is brought to Jesus and the later says, “Neither do I condemn
you.” That is grace. What is grace? A simple definition of grace is
undeserved favor of God. It is the kindness from God that we do not even
deserve but God bestows it on sinners who deserve wraths. There is
nothing we have done or can ever do to earn this favor. It is a gift from
God given freely to whoever wants it. The woman did not deserve it, she
did not earn it but Jesus gave it to her anyway. It was a gift.
However, Jesus did not end only by not condemning her. He added a
statement that we always seem to forget, “Go now and leave your life of
sin.” Or simply, “Go and sin no more”. What did Jesus mean by that
statement? Jesus was not telling that woman to live a sinless life. Why?
Because it is impossible. 1 Jn. 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we
deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” So, Jesus was aware of this
fact. What Jesus was telling this woman was to not return to sinful
lifestyle choices and live a self-centered life. In other words, Jesus was
warning this woman to not continue in the same path of rebelliousness.
Why? Because it leads us away from God. That is holiness. Should
Jesus refrain from saying “God and sin no more”, His grace would be
incomplete. And so, He had to tell her the truth. His words both extended
grace and demanded holiness.
It is sad to say, but many denominations in the world have become so
complacent as they embrace sinful lifestyle choices in the name of grace.
Grace without holiness is not grace at all. This type of grace is dangerous
because it leads people astray. It is like telling a bank robber that you are
doing fine, there is grace for you; in fact, you can go and rob tomorrow
again. Grace and holiness go hand in hand. They are both sides of the
same coin. Grace is more than unmerited favor but the power of God He
gives us to move toward holiness, to overcome sin and to live lives
acceptable to God. In other words, as God extends grace to us, He also
expects us to live lives worthy of living according to His teachings. He
expects us to change from the inside out and move toward perfection
even if perfection is something that we will never attain in our lifetime. As
we read the story of this woman, we understand, she left Jesus a
changed person and she abandoned her old lifestyle. That is the power
of grace. Are we not a denomination of grace and holiness?
In His Service,