Lesson 5: Compassionate Hospitality

And forgive us our debts, as we hereby forgive those who are indebted to us.

– Matthew 6:12 (TIB)

Devotion: Read John 7:53-8:11. Most of the time, our sins are private, hidden from others. However, sometimes sins become public. How do we treat those whose sins become known in the community? Jesus does not condone sin, but he asks us to reflect on our own spiritual lives before we condemn others. When we seek forgiveness for our sin (come before God, confess, take responsibility for choices, and submit to compassion), then we remember God does not forgive because we deserve or earn it. God offers grace, undeserved favor. That awareness changes how we offer forgiveness to others. Jesus teaches we will receive the forgiveness we offer others (Mt 6:12). Anyone who believes we earn forgiveness has not yet experienced it. Forgiveness does not mean condoning sin or unhealthy behavior. We can forgive a person and still allow them to experience the consequences of their choices. Our goal must be to seek a path that will provide the best opportunity for new life in Jesus for them and us. When is it difficult for you to forgive? How should the church deal with those whose sin is made public? What are examples of very difficult circumstances where great wisdom is needed to know how best to respond? When have you withheld forgiveness from someone?

Personal Worship Option: Pray this confessional prayer: Merciful God, I confess that I have not loved you with my whole heart. I have failed to be an obedient disciple. I have not done your will, and I have not loved my neighbors as myself. Forgive me, I pray. Free me for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ my Sovereign… continue in prayer.  

Dig A Little Deeper:

This story is not found in some of the most ancient manuscripts of this gospel. Some place this story after 7:36, 21:25, or even after Luke 21:25.

8:5 The religious leaders refer to Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22-24. However, those laws state both the man and woman are to be stoned. They are applying the Law unevenly. Like the Roman coin (Mt 22:15-22), they want to use the woman as a weapon. If Jesus forgives her, he breaks the Law. If he keeps the letter of the Law and approves of her stoning, Jesus condemns himself, since he earlier broke the Law by healing on the Sabbath.

8:6 They assume Jesus will offer forgiveness rather than stone her according to the Law. What does that teach us about his reputation in the community?  

Although many suggestions have been made as to what Jesus writes on the ground, we do not know. Teachers use dust on the ground in these days before chalkboards. Many believe Jesus writes a list of the sins of those standing before him. Roman judges are known to have written judgments before speaking them publicly. Some believe he doodles to show his disinterest.

8:7 Jesus’ response places the burden back on the crowd. What will happen if he holds everyone present to a strict interpretation of the Law? Who is without sin? How would we feel if our sins are made public? What would happen if all your thoughts were made public?

8:9 Why do you think the elders leave first?

8:11 Jesus does not condone sin; he offers a way out of it. To be righteous means to be in correct alignment with God. Sometimes that is achieved by punishment that forces us to deal with the consequences of our unhealthy choices. At other times righteousness is achieved by forgiving and offering another chance without suffering consequences. How do we know when to offer each?

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