Written In The Heart

Those who study human behavior as a science often comment on the destructive power of guilt. Unresolved guilt can destroy self-respect and create dangerous pathologies.

A group of moral vigilantes interrupted Jesus as He was teaching in the Temple. They threw their prey in front of Him and gathered around with clamors for action. "This woman," they said, identifying the no-doubt half-naked, bruised, and terrified creature, "was caught in adultery, in the very act." They appealed to the conventions of Moses that specified stoning, and asked Jesus what they should do. They intended to accuse His expected mercy as lawbreaking.

Jesus made a point of ignoring them, writing with His finger on the ground. What was He writing? It has been suggested that He wrote down the sins of some of the accusers—it might better explain their reaction a moment later when He said, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." "Convinced by their conscience," the accusers drifted away.

Jesus was the visible incarnation of the same God who had given Moses the Ten Commandments on tables of stone. The same God who had burned the words into stone by His touch now traced words into the dust. Words that simultaneously held men accountable and yet argued for mercy. The unmerciful skulked away, leaving the woman cringing before the Teacher.

"Woman," He asked at length, "where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" Doubtless a lot of crude, cruel accusations had been made. Threats thrown out, backed up by samples of physical violence. But in the quiet after the mob and looking at the hand of God tracing deeply into the dust, the woman was bold enough to say, "No one, Lord."

"Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more," Divinity replied.
Even today we can be tempted to think that it is enough to invoke the law of God—the Ten on Stone—as a shorthand solution to the many moral ills of society. We must be sure that we are not invoking them the way the mob did the civil statutes of Moses, in order to condemn others publicly. It is a fearful thing to play God to our fellows.

God never wanted the tables of stone to be an icon in themselves. Faced with the open denial of faith around the golden calf, Moses actually smashed the stone tablets. The replacement tablets were then kept out of sight within the ark in the Temple. Then, as now, the goal of God was to write the principles of those laws in the heart.

Jesus said at the beginning of His ministry that He had come to the world, not to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:17). What a liberating concept! A nonjudgmental God willing to trace His redeeming purposes through the dust of our lives. "Go and sin no more" is as much a solution as a directive. With it the practicalities of the law meet the condescension of the Creator who first formed man by hand out of the dust of the earth.

*Text quoted from John 8:11, New King James Version. Other texts are from the full NKJV story in verses 3-11. Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright
Article Author: Lincoln E. Steed

Lincoln E. Steed is the editor of Liberty magazine, a 200,000 circulation religious liberty journal which is distributed to political leaders, judiciary, lawyers and other thought leaders in North America. He is additionally the host of the weekly 3ABN television show "The Liberty Insider," and the radio program "Lifequest Liberty."