To Write Love In The Sand

Writing in the Sand


I think it is interesting how God responds to the accused and the accuser.  I’ve messed up at times, and I’ll wager you have too.  Sometimes it’s private, but when it goes public, life tends to become much more difficult.

Consider this story:  The Pharisees, (the religious leaders of the time period) interrupt Jesus as he teaches the peeps in the temple, by dragging a woman described as “being caught in the very act of adultery”.

[Which leads to so many questions: was she married, or the guy or both?  How did the Pharisees know they were having sex, and futhermore, why did they take it upon themselves to bust up in there?  Given the events of the story, was she set up?]

Finger Writing not Finger Pointing

Wow.  Here was a person, caught in the very act of having sex with someone who wasn’t her husband, dragged into the public square so everyone could see her and know what she did, and Jesus’ response to her was to:

Write in the sand so as to not look at her out of respect and give her dignity as she sat half-naked and accused. (What was he writing?  Google’s search algorithm?  The Colonel’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices?  The lyrics to “Amazing Grace”? A quick sketch of the Mona Lisa?

Remind her accusers of their own moral imperfections and shortcomings.  [He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.  The penalty for adultery was stoning a.k.a having large and x-large rocks thrown at you until you died.]

Extend to her grace, respect, and love and not bring up her past or current behavior. [“Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”.]

What love does is not dig up the past or try and control behavior.  Jesus didn’t give her a lecture or a 7 step guide on how a woman “should” conduct herself or name call her.  He didn’t speak harshly to her and then say He was speaking the truth in love as if that makes what he said better.  He tells her 10 words which (presumably) change her life forever:  Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.

I wonder what her thought process was as she walked away.  I wonder how she interacted with the community from that moment forward.  I wonder how she felt as she looked back and there sat Jesus, still writing in the sand.

I can imagine the gossip and criticism and disapproving looks she probably got from people.  Maybe she didn’t get sucked into all that drama because Jesus himself loved her and set her free.  Besides, how they feel about her is their problem.

WWJD For Real

What if we did what Jesus did?  What if we loved and didn’t condemn.  What if we became real, dropped our rocks, and examined our own lives instead of trying to control what other people do?  What if we stopped holding other people to our own internal standards and loved them where they are?

What if we defended the accused, when it would be much more popular to join the crowd and condemn.  What if we have every reason in the world to pass judgement (the woman in the story was “breaking the rules”) but instead gave love.

Drawing Lines vs. Writing Love

It’s hard, so very hard to give that kind of love.  Yet, when we are the ones facedown in the sand in our shame, it’s that same love we are desperate for.

For so many years, all I was concerned with was drawing lines in the sand and condemning behavior.  I was the one holding rocks, ready to throw.  (But I never, even in my most religious hypocrisy, ever rolled up into someone’s house with my boys and carried someone out while they were…in the middle of a little somethin’ somethin’.  Who spankin’ does that??  I still say she was set up so they could trip Jesus up.  We need C.S.I Galilee on the case.  Or Shawn and Gus]

I now would much rather deal with my stuff on my own than have Jesus call me out publicly.

We can write love in the sand by loving people and not condemning.  How can we do this?  Feel free to comment and let’s talk it out.



Addendum:  So what about the dude she was with when they got bum rushed by the Pharisees?  The interesting thing is, he isn’t mentioned at all in the story or Bible.  There is no record of him and this guy faded away into history.  While the woman, even though she had to go through hell, had a conversation with Jesus (not many could say that), was shown love and became a part of history.  Interesting indeed…


[photo by Martin Burns]
Tags from the story


  • These are lovely thoughts and music to my ears. I like that you mention the man…I’ve always subconsciously wondered that, but could never voice it. Shane Claiborn told a story that when he was sharing this same lesson and wondering what Jesus was writing in the sand, a little boy spoke up with the idea, “I bet he wrote, “Lady, if this doesn’t work, Run!” ” Ha! Jesus loved in scandalous ways, sometimes. I hope I’ll grow to have the same courage.

  • What’s up Kyla! I hear you about “the dude” in the story. The kid’s response is hilarious!

    I like how you put that, “love in scandalous ways”. Oh to show people love, in spite of what the status quo would have us do.

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