Jesus Taught Dignity and Compassion

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV

For years the church has loved pointing out that while Jesus forgave the woman trapped in adultery, He also told her to “sin no more.” And for years Seventh-day Adventists have been overlooking one of the greatest lessons Jesus ever taught. Jesus did not tell the woman to go and sin no more and then He would not condemn her. He told her He would not condemn her. More than freeing her from the condemnation of the law, Jesus was freeing the sex-slave who was callously thrown at his feet from her own self condemnation. He was restoring her dignity and sense of self worth so she was was now free to live the better life that she so desperately longed for but had only dreamed about.

They  told her they loved her. Said she was beautiful. Promised her she would be special. Next thing she knew she was being dragged out of bed by the very ones who dragged her into bed, and those who had praised and flattered her just stood and watched her being dragged away, as their trap and plan unfolded.

Now she was kneeling half naked, humiliated before Jesus. Eyes closed, not wanting to see the stones that would soon be crushing her head, she waited in terror. It seemed like eternity. When would it be over?

Barely peeking through one eye she sees Jesus doing something in the sand. Not sure what. She hears footsteps as men walk away. What is going on? Then she hears a word she had not heard in years directed at her.

“Woman…”

Jesus didn’t call her a “slut,” or “whore.” He called her “woman.” He was addressing her with the same title of respect that He gave to his own mother, who spoke with angels and gave birth to the Son of God.

“….where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” John 8:10 NKJV

She opens her eyes and looks around. They are all gone! She makes no accusations against the men. We know little about the background of this woman. She may or may not have been a victim of sex trafficking. But we do know that, terrified as she was, she was ready to face the consequences without blaming anyone else for the choices she had made, and the role she had played, which now brought her half-naked and humiliated into the presence of Jesus. Yet incredibly, as guilty as she was, it was her accusers who slunk away. As she lay helpless at His feet, there was no one to condemn her! When we fall helplessly at the feet of Jesus, there is no condemnation for us either.

He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10 NKJV)

She said, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11 NKJV)

What was next? A sermon? A lecture? Nowhere is it recorded, but I can imagine Jesus placing His coat over her near-naked body.

The Holy One Who would be hanging naked on a cross in front of the entire universe one day, takes off His robe and covers this woman, protecting her human dignity more than just covering her sexuality.

He doesn’t preach to her. He ministers to her.

Did you know you don’t have to be a preacher to be a minister? Ministering to sinners doesn’t always have to include a sermon. An-ill timed sermon can do more harm than good. Jesus could preach with the best of them, but He knew when to preach and when not to preach. He also knew when to minister.

He called her “woman.” He placed His coat over her near-naked body and gave her the sense of dignity she had been promised by the man who betrayed her trust. Then He did not preach to her with words, He ministered to her with words.

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV

His words were brief and clear, yet somehow we get them mixed up. Have we ever told someone “Go and sin no more, and then I will stop condemning you!” Have you ever told a young man or woman, “we treat you like a child because you act like a child? Stop acting that way and then we will stop treating you that way.” That’s not what Jesus said. Jesus restored her dignity instead of asking her to act more dignified.

Jesus said clearly, “Neither do I condemn you.” Present tense.

“Go and sin no more.” Future tense.

The world told her they would stop condemning her once she stopped sinning. Jesus promised not to condemn her, so she could stop sinning.

They called her a whore and a slut.
Jesus called her a woman.

Mankind promised her she would be special, and then humiliated and betrayed her.
Jesus restored her dignity and made her special.

There was no condemnation for this woman at the feet of Jesus, and there is no condemnation for you, when you kneel at the feet of Jesus. By the way I love how Jesus turned a dirty trick into something beautiful. No matter how ill intended their evil plot was, these wicked men still brought a woman to the feet of Jesus where she found salvation! Their plan backfired! Grace has a way of defeating every intention of Satan. By the way to this day we still do not know exactly what Jesus wrote in the sand that day. That message was for those evil men alone. He wrote in the sand so he could reach their hearts without anyone else being able to see. Jesus will leave no means undone in His attempt to save, but public humiliation is the last thing Jesus wants to do if there is any way around it. That is one reason why Jesus says in Matthew 18 to go to the offender privately so hopefully it can be resolved without anyone else hearing of the matter. Still Jesus loves the sinner so much if not resolved it may have to be brought before the entire church and public humiliation may have to be encountered so salvation can become a reality. Yet Jesus wants to protect human dignity. After all He worked His first miracle of turning water into wine just to save a host from public embarrassment. He wrote in the sand to save sinners from public embarrassment, while also protecting the dignity of the woman. Picture of Jesus show a towel around His waist as He hung on the cross. Reality check, there was no towel around his waist in real life. Jesus hung naked in front of the entire universe taking on all of the public humiliation the universe deserves so He could save the universe from all of the public humiliation the entire universe deserves. Let that sink in. Ellen White in Desire of Ages, page 25 tells us Jesus was treated as we deserve so we can be treated as he deserves.

Jesus, the Master teacher did not embarrass His students. He dignified them. He did not tell them to stop making mistakes so He could stop condemning them. He stopped condemning them so they could be free from making the same mistakes again.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Is Book Knowledge Enough?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While living in Texas, near Southwestern Adventist University I was good friends with a theology student and his wife. They recently had a baby one night when I called. The husband was quick to get off the phone with me. I thought nothing of it, but apparently he thought he owed me an explanation when he called back the next night.

He explained he had an argument with his wife when I called. His wife was trying to breastfeed but wasn’t succeeding, and was becoming frustrated. He then started instructing her how to breastfeed and she became very angry at him. I asked him, “How in the world can you tell your wife how to breastfeed?” His answer Was the classic example of how some students over estimate book knowledge when he very authoritatively responded, “I read it in a book!

Around the same time, I talked to another theology student who was telling me how wise his grandfather was but then lowered his head in disappointment and said, “but he never got a degree, so all of his knowledge was wasted.”There are some things you just can’t learn in a book. A book might make you smart but it can’t make you compassionate, understanding and caring, and those are very important traits in a theologian missionary.

Degree or no degree, knowledge is never wasted. Also many confuse a degree with an education. There are actually many people who are educated through personal studies and practical experience who do not have degrees and there are people with degrees who have no practical knowledge. And of course there are plenty of people with both practical and theoretical knowledge. Those are the best!

It has been many years since that night I called my friend in Texas. He has gone on to become a wonderful pastor and an even more gracious, caring and understanding husband and father. He has learned some wonderful things from books, but it has taken more than books for him to learn to be caring, compassionate and understanding. It takes experience. It takes time alone with God in prayer as well as reading the Good Book.

When I am encouraging a Bible student who is discouraged with doubt and disappointments they will listen a little as I quote Bible promises, but they really become attentive, when I tell them how I have practically applied those verses in my life when I too have been disappointed and discouraged.

I can easily understand why my friend’s wife got so frustrated with him when he was trying to tell her what he had read in a book. Book knowledge is great, but it is pretty useless unless you yourself have put it into practice and succeeded. And I seriously doubt my friend ever put that book knowledge on breastfeeding into practice! Therefore with all the book knowledge in the world he had no right telling his wife how to nurse their baby. Likewise unless we are putting the Bible into practice we have no right to teach it to others.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on missionaries here.

The Beatitudes

Here are a few of my thoughts on the Beatitudes as we study our SS lesson this week on “The Wisdom of His Teachings.”

 

 

 

Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:3

 

Here Jesus is talking about a people who have no pride in spirit, but instead sense their need of a Savior. Notice it is at that time that we receive eternal life. Sure the conversion is still to be completed and spiritual victories are yet to be won. Yet Jesus clearly says that for the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Not will be but is, now.

 

Throughout the conversion process and even when it is completed we are poor in spirit. We realized our righteousness is not our own, it is God’s. Our good deeds are actually the fruits of the spirit, not our works of the flesh.

 

For example, several years ago I was watching the Cosby Show. Vanessa was complaining to her dad, Bill Cosby that kids were calling her a snob because they had so much money. “Dad”, she sighed, ‘Why do we have to be so rich?” Bill Cosby replied as only he can, “Wait a minute Vanessa, your mother and I are rich. You have nothing!” Good point. The nice fancy home Vanessa lived in was her parents not hers. The healthy food she ate came from her folks. The expensive clothes she wore had been all paid by her mother and father as well. Her parents were rich. She had nothing. At least on her own she had nothing but by being in a relationship with her parents she was made rich. Likewise on our own we are spiritually broke. Everything good about us comes from the goodness of God living in us.

 

 

Blessed [are] they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.  Matthew 5:4

 

The second step to a complete conversion is a true sorrow for sin. A truly converted person does not brag about all the money she swindled or men that she has been with. A truly converted person mourns because of what their sin has done to Christ and His cause and not what the sin had done to them personally. In Psalms 51 David says, “Against you and you only have I sinned.” What David is saying, is I have hurt You God. That is why I am sorry.

 

Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:5

 

Meek people are teachable. Jesus does not require us to be perfect on day one of our conversion. Jesus accepts us just the way we are. If we are poor in spirit and mourn for our sins, then Jesus finds us teachable. Jesus spent His time on earth with druggies and perverts. They seemed to be losers in society except for one attribute which kept them from maturing into complete losers. They were teachable.

 

 Jesus was a patient teacher. Jesus did not try to be patient nor did he pretend to be patient. He was patient.  Jesus did not use the failures of others as opportunities to censor. He used them for an opportunity for Him to teach. He taught by example and often the same lesson over and over. He never censored the publicans and prostitutes as long as they were teachable. He did censor the self righteous Pharisees for not being teachable.

 

Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.  Matthew 5:6

 

Converted people don’t reach for the lowest standards. They reach for the righteousness of Christ. While many debate as to just how far sanctification can take us, Jesus promises to fill us with His righteousness. Ephesians 3:19 tells us we can be filled with all the fullness of God. Romans 8:4 tells us the righteousness of the law will be fulfilled in us, not just for us. For that to happen we must sense our need for it. We must hunger and thirst for the living water. Poor people in third world countries are not the only ones starving to death. Millionaires in California and Texas have starved to death as well, because some of them had a disease that took away their appetite and they didn’t eat. They ended up starving to death simply because they were not hungry. God can save us if we will just allow Him to make us hungry enough to eat the living bread.

 

So far as the conversion has progressed, God has not asked us to be self righteous, He has asked us to be poor in spirit. He has not asked us to be perfect but teachable. He has not demanded for us to know it all but to hunger and thirst for it all. He will teach. He will fill us. He will make us righteous. Jesus is truly patient because all He is truly wanting are opportunities to teach people who really want to learn. Patient is the teacher who sees the best in the student while seeking better ways and opportunities to teach.

 

Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.  Matthew5:7

 

Notice after being filled with righteousness, the next step is not self righteousness but being merciful. A converted person always expects less from others and more from himself. A converted person knows that not only was Jesus treated the way I should be treated so I can be treated the way Jesus should be treated, but I can also treat my enemy just like I would treat Christ Himself, because Christ was treated just like my enemy should have been treated.

 

 

 

 

Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God.  Matthew 5:8

 

The purity in heart is the purity of our heavenly Teacher. Look at this passage in Ezekiel 36: 24-29 and see how it is accomplished in the student not just for the student. At the same time it is all accomplished by the Teacher not the student. “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them]. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.  I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.” 

 

 

Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.  Matthew 5:9

 

Jesus’ conversion process has us ending up with His character. He is the great Prince of Peace and He will teach us to be peacemakers. Converted people don’t break up families and homes or churches.

 

Peace does not mean calm and quiet. Peace means unity. Peace does not mean there is no storm. It just means there is a unity with God in the storm. Peace does not come from being proud and self righteous but by being poor in spirit, knowing you need to be in unity with God. Peace does not come from knowing it all but by being teachable. Peace comes from hungering and thirsting for God and His righteousness instead of hungering and thirsting for worldly accomplishments and worldly greatness.

 

True peace and contentment does not come from unity with your spouse. It comes from being in unity with God.

 

Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.  Matthew 5:10-12

 

Notice that now that the conversion is complete, now the persecution has come. Why? Because we have raised the standard. When I was in 9th grade algebra our teacher graded on the curve and counted the highest score as 100%. So if the highest grade was 85 and mine was 60 then my percentage was 60 out of 85 instead of 60 out of 100. We only had one problem. A girl in our class kept getting 100 out of 100 and so the standard was never lowered. She was not popular on the days we got out tests back because she would not lower the standard for the rest of us. Likewise when we have been converted and we raise the standard above the worldly standard the world will persecute us. The church will never see persecution as long as it watches the same movies the world watches, dresses the same way the world dresses and eats the same way the world eats. Persecution will never come as long as we don’t make the world look any less holy than it is. In the book of Revelation the persecution comes after God’s people have been sealed with His character. A character far above the world. The same is seen here in the Beatitudes. Once the conversion is complete, here comes the persecution. And Jesus says “Rejoice!” The kingdom is at hand and it is yours!

 

Check out more studies on my personal website at http://www.InLightOfTheCross.com