In the story of the woman caught in adultery told in John 8, Jesus turned the accused into the accepted. Instead of rejecting the adulterous woman, whose life hung in the balance, He accepted her. And He does the same for us today. He takes everyone pushed to the margins by their own sin and tells them, “You are mine. You’re right in the center of the Father’s love.”
This gesture by Jesus was crucial for the adulterous woman. Why? Because she still had to live in her community with the reality of what she’d done. You see, while it’s true that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, there are still real- life consequences to sin. Ask any addict who’s gone through a recovery program. There are broken bonds to mend with family, friends, children, coworkers. In the case of adultery, there can be unwanted pregnancies, broken love with a spouse, strained relationships with children, betrayals of trust within a community—matters that can take years to be repaired.
That’s why there is very real mercy in Jesus’ two distinct statements to the adulterous woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). I would not be a faithful minister of God if I didn’t say that while, yes, Jesus loves you, accepts you and forgives you, there is very real fallout to sin. As a pastor I see it all the time. That’s why our sin is of great concern to God beyond the moral reasons of law-breaking. Paul says, “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). This is all the more reason to bring any and every sin to Jesus. Only His powerful, redeeming grace can fully heal and restore.
There is a third group transformed by God’s grace: the accusers. The Pharisees’ heartless, accusing plan backfired on them. Ultimately, the sinful woman wasn’t condemned but instead was rescued and healed. And when that kind of radical grace manifests, evil is forced to slink away in shame. “They slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman” (John 8:9).