“You thought I was to die for, so you sacrificed your life So I could be free . . . whole So I could tell everyone I know You thought I was worth saving” (Anthony Brown and group therapy, “Worth”).
We remember this story: the woman is discovered in the midst of an extramarital entanglement. What a shock this must have been to her, as those who intruded don’t care for her privacy. Imagine the look of tormented embarrassment radiating from her face as she attempts to cover herself—to explain why she was found there amid shouts, grabbing hands, and angry fists. Surrounded by men, she attempts to shield herself from her captors by digging her heels into the dirt— to no avail. They are moving, and she is, yet again, out of options.
She wonders why her journey has ended at church, as she knows she is not welcome here. This is the building where love for her ran out ages ago. They are shouting and jeering with wild eyes and unkind curiosity.
Suddenly she notices she is not alone on the ground. The Man beside her is not looking down at her. His eyes show compassion. From her position she cannot read the words He writes into the dirt. He stands and addresses the growing crowd and then returns to the spot where He knelt. As the men leave one after the other, her heart rate slows enough for her to regain her footing. She is again alone with a Man, but there is no anxiety. Imagine her surprise as He turns to her and says, “Where are all the men who lambasted you? I’m not here to condemn you. Go, and live free from sin going forward.”*
A PERSONAL TAKE
Now, imagine if this woman were your daughter—or mother, sister, or friend.
In a world in which callous superficiality is the order of the day, a friend like Jesus is not only helpful to have but restorative in how He cares. Jesus is often depicted as gentle, a term that conjures thoughts of mild temperaments and weakness. Is this what we witness in John 8 in even our most sanctified imaginings?
As we dig into this passage, let’s consider the men involved. Who were the men that brought the “adulteress” to the temple for judgment? Clearly they were powerful enough to make her feel powerless. What was the station of the man with whom she was involved? High enough to avoid public scorn and rebuke for the same actions for which she was judged. The men in the life of the woman had conspired against her, disrespected, and left her with the exception of Jesus, the “gentleman.” Jesus is gentle in this situation in a way we seldom acknowledge.
From the perspective of Christ, the story might have been that a woman was brought to Him in the hallowed courts of the temple by hostile men who constantly disrespected His Father. These men had the audacity to attempt to theologically hem the Son of God into a corner in His Father’s house. Christ’s divinity must have been reeling at the sacrilege and dishonor they brought to the temple in place of the respect the hallowed ground deserved. On this, the day the crowd chose violence; Jesus, the “gentleman,” chose to journal in the dust a literary work so powerful that the men vanished without argument. It is likely that though Jesus displayed compassion for the woman, He was holding back the rightful judgment He could have executed easily through His authority. Restraining the power to annihilate us is a virtue we seldom think to praise God for. These men walked away with only slight bruising to their egos.
We ought not overlook the other merciful gift that was offered by Jesus, the gentleman in this scenario. The woman was not only protected by His nonviolent reprimand but restored in value. In John 8:10, 11 we can read the exchange:
“When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’”
SELF-WORTH IS A GIFT
The angle Christ takes to approaching the woman’s sin is both humbling and affirming. He has the right and the authority to take her to task for her actions, but He chooses to empower her through this offer of a new beginning by charging her to take responsibility for herself. That she is challenged to accomplish what Jesus believes she can speaks volumes about how capable He sees her to be in relation to His sacrifice on her behalf. This should inspire us to look at ourselves— caught in bad situations, often of our own making, yet identified by Christ as worth the effort. We should endeavor to discover what value He sees in us. Valuing ourselves is in step with honoring the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf. We realize our potential by intentionally seeking to honor God when we treat ourselves the way He treats us.
Practical tips for increasing self-worth include:
■ Accepting ourselves as individuals who are loved by God ■ Recognizing that people, accomplishments, and praise do not validate us as individuals ■ Choosing responses that honor the new person we are in Christ ■ Exercising the power God gave us to choose and change our situations
John 8 shows us how Jesus seeks to restore us by giving us the freedom to explore life outside of the confines of sin. It is up to us to realize that this opportunity was bought and paid for with His sacrifice. He laid aside His ultimate power to give each of us access to new life in Him. That’s a good starting point to recognizing our self-worth in Christ.
* The retelling of Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery is based on John 8:1-11.