A Liberating Whore Story

 

I wasn’t there… But I really don’t think this is what it looked like.

 We have all read the story in John – nowhere else – about the woman caught in adultery. We have all been taught how Jesus inaugurated a new way to fulfill the law – and we have put ourselves in the tangled sandals of the woman. We have read it and closed our bibles grateful that Jesus doesn’t condemn us, but saves us from condemnation and tells us plainly to “sin no more.”

But grace folds over in grace when I walk across the temple’s dirt to the Pharisees. When I see through their eyes her face flushed red with shame and fear. She’s been found out and her lover goes free while she is drug into full light for reckoning. The elders gather and she will be a pawn in their game to confound the young Rabbi. I hear them invoke Moses and everyone knows what will come. I grab a stone.

John doesn’t tell us what Jesus writes in the sand, but he does tell us that he stands up and posits a daring invitation – one which would free the adulteress and the powerful religious elite. 

Let the one without sin throw the first stone.

My hand clenches the stone tightly in a final push for indignance. But she is a whore, I tell myself. She is spitting in the face of God. She is fully aware of her sin and keeps doing it. She is audacious in her filth. But the rock thuds hard onto the ground at my feet and it’s weighted with these condemnations as I feel it meet the earth. Like a shackle or a chain or a heavy tether point, my stone slips off and I am free – freer than I want to be.

I have put forth impressive effort to hang onto my constraints. I spent the vast portion of my life collecting platitudes, fashioning a ladder to God. I have adopted ordinances as my boundaries in an attempt to stay safe within his walls. I have neglected principles in favor of precepts. I have seriously questioned whether showing kindness and love and compassion and grace was “the right thing to do” because the other person was unrepentant of their sin. I have wondered that. Can you imagine? 

And why? Because like the Pharisess (I suspect) I was terrified. Like the Pharisees (I suspect) I served an angry God. Angry with my sin. With my stubbornness. Angry with my feeble efforts always falling short. Angry with my contempt for his system. Angry with what I had been taught was my wicked, disgusting, filthy, good-for-nothing heart and probably angry that he had to offer me salvation at such a cost. I felt constantly unworthy and constantly shameful for the space I took up in his universe.

Of course I never would have said those things. Because every good Christian can quote that “God is Love.” And God is Good. And God is Perfect and Holy and God hates sin, but not the sinner. And God is Just and God is Right and God is going to judge us all and God is fed up and God is being held off by Jesus and in the words of a famous and respected preacher, “God hates you!”

But God so loved the world.

…he just hates you. In your sin, in your unrepentance. You’re his enemy and he is really good at payback. So get on your face and beg for forgiveness – appease his wrath. Try harder, do better, but always remember that your attempts are like filthy rags and it will never be enough. And also? They are sinful. Because you were saved from eternal torment by grace, not works! Or were you? Because you’ve been struggling with this for a long time and you’re not living in his freedom here. Get back on your face and repeat the cycle.

And that is the mixed up, twisted message that stuck. That somehow “God is Love” meant that God hated his creation and wanted us to suffer for our iniquities. Specifically me. Because only I knew the depth of my depravity and apparently it went far deeper than I could fathom. Frankly, I was scared out of my mind.

And I suspect the Pharisees were scared, too. Scared of God and then scared that everything they had built might be torn down and therefore was not what God had wanted to begin with. If this adultress woman – obviously in violation of the Law – was to be accepted, then everything they had ordered their lives around was not only unnecessary, but wrong. If they were wrong, they were in jeapordy of being cut off from the God of Right. If they were wrong about this law they might be wrong about God’s ultimate desire altogether. 

I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.

I wanted so badly to just reject what Jesus said about his father. I was afraid that I would fall into some trap – start to really believe that Jesus was right about God, lulled into comfort to be punched in the gut with the truth – that my fear of him was well placed, that Jesus’ picture of God was too good to be true. But it is hard not to listen to the kind Rabbi and hard not to hope. And when God showed up where I dared to linger I was floored. When God said, “Yes, kid, that’s right, I’m for you and I’m not going anywhere,” I could have thrown a party, danced to exhaustion, shouted in my highest voice. And it isn’t easy, but brick-by-brick we are dismantling the barriers. 

Stones drop.

As Jesus forced the Pharisees to reflect upon their shortcomings he told them two things: that even the most pious are not pure and that he was in the business of letting people off the hook. As we know, they didn’t like it very much and killed him for it, but they were given a chance at freedom. In that moment, though many chose to return to captivity, they were liberated. And being given actual freedom left even these law-loving men with no choice.

Stones drop. 

Apparently liberation binds you to Love. Freedom in Christ is slavery to kindness and grace and compassion. Freedom in Christ is chaining yourself to every other human – with links of patience and deference and courage. Freedom in Christ is the freedom to see yourself as fully loved and therefore able to love fully. Able to show mercy because you’ve been shown mercy. Able to relate because you’ve been related to. Able to hear because you’ve been heard. Love begets freedom begets love begets freedom… 

Stones drop. 

And with them all the trying and doing and building and we are forced to see that sin is ugly… and sin is forgiven. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s