#MeToo | James Stevenson
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
11 ‘No one, sir,’ she said.
‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’
Through the #MeToo movement personal experiences have become shared experiences. The world has had to come to terms with the fact that sexual assault and harassment are normal experiences for so many people.
The sexual brokenness of our society is no longer assessed by the extreme behaviour of some. Instead it has become an everyday phenomenon, and the world is asking what is right, what is safe and how do we raise children in this environment. We need to give a clear answer and live that answer out as Christians, while recognising that our own brokenness will need to be healed and forgiven.
When Jesus is confronted with the woman caught in the act of adultery, the accusers expect him either to be lenient, saying it doesn’t really matter, or to uphold the law of Moses saying adultery is wrong and it is right to stone her to death. In a master stroke he invites the stoning but protects her from harm. Left alone with her, he neither condones nor condemns. When he says ‘go and leave your life of sin’ he invites her into a relationship that will mean that she can do just that. Ultimately he invites her to the Cross where her sin can be transferred to him. He would cancel the debt of her sin and ours, so we can share eternal life with him.
Reading the passage and asking oneself “where do I see myself in this?’ can be a powerful way to allow God into a growing self-awareness. Do you identify as a bystander – interested in Jesus but not in the sex issue? Or as a Pharisee – an accuser, outwardly insisting on highest standards but inwardly not matching up to them? Or do you identify with the woman because you are stuck in sexual sin, and purity seems implausible and impossible? Perhaps you identify with her because you too have been assaulted or shamed?
Whoever you identify with, Jesus meets you where you are but also has more for you. To the assaulted he brings healing, to the adulterers forgiveness and fidelity, to the accusers the same forgiveness, fidelity but also rebuke, and to the bystanders he says that we are all in this together: your brothers and sisters need you.
How can we live in a sexually broken society as followers of Jesus, when we know that sexual sin is not something we’re immune to? What is your reaction as a Christian to sexual temptation? Do you say, it’s OK to follow our over-sexualised society’s ways; scriptural ethics are outdated? Or rely on your own ability to insist on what is right and wrong, but at risk of finding that in private, sexual sin takes root in your life? Or will you be like Jesus who in his holiness repels the sin? Will you as a temple of the Holy Spirit, allow him to do the work of driving out the sin that tempts you, so that you might live in the holiness that he has for you? And speak grace and truth to the world around us as Jesus did.
None of us can do this if we are compromised by our own idolatrous patterns – in other words Jesus must be more important than everything in our lives, including sex. That’s the firm ground to stand on. And if we fail and are compromised as Christians, we don’t despair – we need to repent, be filled with the Holy Spirit and keep going.
The #MeToo movement offers a personal experience shared. God’s people can offer the same sharing of personal experience, not of assaults but of how Jesus is changing us from the inside out.