Where Do You Draw the Line?

“Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”

-John 8:2-11

Very recently, I went through what I can call the worst experience of my life, so far. Someone broke my heart, and through it all, I kept thinking about the story about the adulterous woman in the Bible (John 8:2-11).  

Growing up, I often heard this story in reference to not judging others for their mistakes.  I was told we should put ourselves in place of the Pharisees so that we could realize Jesus tells us we should not judge anyone for the sins they commit because we are all sinners.

As I got older, I started seeing the story from a different perspective. If I was a sinner, didn’t I also need to be looked upon with kindness, didn’t I also need to be forgiven? My relationship with Jesus was strengthened with this story because it reminded me Jesus was on my side. He always wants the best for me and is willing to be there for me when no one else is.

The message seemed simple enough to understand: we are all sinners who will, at one time or another, need to be forgiven; so we should not look down on anyone because Jesus loves us all equally. However, through this very recent experience, I came to realize that when we only put ourselves in place of the Pharisees or of the woman, we miss a very important part of the story.

A few nights ago, I kept thinking about the choices I would have to make because of what had occurred. Would it be best for me if I kept things as they were or if I changed things? Could I forgive and reconcile, or should I just forgive and leave? When do you say you’ve had enough? Where do you draw the line?

At that moment, this story popped into my mind again. I kept thinking about Jesus, and his role in everything. Was it really just that easy to tell the woman that she was forgiven and that everything would be okay? I kept wondering how he did it.

The story says that Jesus was writing in the sand. We are not told what exactly he was writing, but, in my mind, I kept imagining Jesus writing words and then drawing a line in the sand.

I kept seeing Jesus calmly writing in the sand, and when he finished, I saw him draw a line, almost as if he were saying, “This is where you draw the line.”

My heart was broken this weekend, and instead of forgiving and turning my back on everything, I decided to forgive and stay. I wondered what others would think of my choices and of me. I was scared and I felt overwhelmed; but then, I thought of what Jesus told the woman, and I knew I did exactly what Jesus wanted of me.

I had always thought that drawing the line meant that you had to draw it between you and someone else. It meant breaking ties and bonds so that you would no longer be able to be hurt by them. Jesus taught me otherwise.

He saw the woman and knew her sin, and still chose to remain by her side. He chose to draw the line, not between himself and the woman, but between the woman and the world. He stayed by her side and fought for her so that she would know forgiveness. He showed her what it meant to be loved.  

I know the road ahead will not be easy, but now that I know where to draw the line. I know that at least I’ll end up where God wants me.


Originally written and posted February 28, 2012


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