Letters in the Dirt

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Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. ~ John 8:6

If you’re familiar with the stories of Jesus’ life in the Gospels, you know which one that line comes from. It starts off as a bitter story of entrapment and shame … a woman is dragged before a crowd. Half dressed and spoken of as trash, she is thrown before the King of Kings and a judgment is demanded.

And that’s when Jesus started writing letters in the dirt. In the dark halls of seminaries young hopeful theologians argue about what he wrote. Of course we’ll never know in this life. But whatever he wrote, this is the action he chose to engage when presented with the whorish woman. Her partner in fornication no where to be seen. She’s left alone to bear the curse of the self righteous crowd.

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CAUGHT. It’s the shame of others knowing what was done in secret. Caught in the unbearable scrutiny of those who have the luxury of pretending they do not have comparable sin. Caught by the hypocritical furrowed brows of those who have the gall to imagine themselves better than some other sinner because they haven’t committed THAT sin.

Then came the words that shake the cages of everyone entrapped in their illusion of being better than those other sinners.

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Then he traced more letters in the dirt. The dirt of shame. The dirt of sin. The dirt of filthy thoughts. The dirt of reckless choices. The dirt of pain and humiliation. The dirt of irresponsible behavior.

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At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first…

There is a kind of wisdom that comes with age. The young firebrands, so assured of their rightness, rocks in hand, ready to pelt the sweaty sheet-wrapped prostitute. But the older ones knew. The mirror of their life, when placed before them, revealed the truth about who they really were….what they had really done… and how they were about to be exposed.

So the older ones walked away first and then the younger. Until in one horrifyingly embarrassing moment the adulteress is left alone with the Rabbi. Can you imagine how fast her heart was beating? This was the one who could bring the final condemnation. How cruel would he be in his pronouncement? Would he mock her? Would he lower the boom with the final insults that would strip her of the last bit of self still existing?

….neither do I condemn you…Go now and leave your life of sin.

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I can imagine that she had to repeat these words in her own mind … no condemnation…

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  ~ Romans 8:1-2

No condemnation? Freedom? Release? Impossibly good news. But also an appeal to personal responsibility. Get out of this sinning business. 

Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used-car salesmen. Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them— fully aware that His table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyebrows of religious bureaucrats who hold up the robes and insignia of their authority to justify their condemnation of the truth and their rejection of the gospel of grace. ~ Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

We don’t know where the woman went from here. After such an encounter with the grace of Christ, one hopes that she left behind this life of sexual trysts and offering herself to be used and used up by men who cared nothing for her. 

Maybe Jesus wrote LOVE in the dirt. I don’t know. But I don’t think the LOVE of Christ leads us to continuing on in our life of sin. If we know Him and sense the LOVE in Him for us, we will be moved to become more LIKE him. 

To another sinner who needed to be reminded of his LOVE Jesus said three times:

“Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. ~ John 21:17

It might hurt a little to hear how much Jesus loves us in spite of our sin. It might hurt a lot to leave our sin behind to follow that love.

But I believe Jesus is writing in the dirt of your heart

… right now

… and I believe He’s writing LOVE.

So, saints and sinners, put down your rocks … hear His words … follow His LOVE.

Thanks for reading,  JD

For your Kindle:

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning   $11.99

Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayers by Brennan Manning $4.49

Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian  $1.99

How to Let God Solve Your Problems by Charles Stanley   .99

The Ministry of Intercession by Andrew Murray  Currently FREE

Breaking Spiritual Strongholds in Your City by C. Peter Wagoner  $1.99