8:7 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.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.

9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.”

And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

It is hard to give up the fight when something deep inside you knows that you are wrong. The “scribes and the Pharisees” just cannot give up. They keep hammering away at Jesus, demanding a response. They may have wished they had kept silent as Jesus

straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Spiritual truth and insight are never aimed first at “them”. The finger of truth always points first at me. Whether the “scribes and the Pharisees” acknowledged it or not, the accusing finger they pointed at this woman was bent back at her accusers.

Jesus reached for the deep inner meaning of the law when he said in Matthew’s Gospel,

I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

These arbiters of righteousness at least have enough honest and integrity to slink away under Jesus’ penetrating gaze when he holds up a mirror to their hearts. They cannot escape this brief moment of blistering truth; they are forced to see themselves in the mirror Jesus has held up to their faces. Jesus is not in the condemnation business. But he is deeply into the self-awareness and honesty business. The call of the spiritual lives is to see ourselves authentically and acknowledge that there is no difference between us and the person we might be tempted to condemn.

Even the woman is not excused from taking responsibility for her behaviour. No one has suggested she is innocent. Adultery seems to have been a fact in this story. And, adultery is never a life-giving choice for human flourishing. So Jesus ends by assuring this woman he does not “condemn” her but then challenges her saying,

from now on do not sin again.

This can only have applied to the specifics of her situation at this time. It is not a suggestion that the woman was capable of living a sinless life. But, she is capable of refraining from adultery, particularly now that her life has been touched by grace and light.

What are the sins I am eager to see in the lives of others but less likely to identify in my own heart?

What practices help my heart open and soften to the grace that was embodied in Jesus?