I want to invite you to my Sunday school Valentine message. In my car. While driving up a mountain, talking about adultery. With my family in tow. Where’s the bulging eye emoji when I need one?
We’d left the I Spy game about 60 miles behind us, and lobbed quiz game questions back and forth. “What’s the A stand for in the classic book, The Scarlet Letter? The one the lady had to wear wherever she went?”
Then, “Mom, what’s adultery?” I gulped down half my Starbucks coffee before the other half came spewing back out of a single nostril.
I’d rather swerve and dodge this one, but either we’re teaching them, or the world’s teaching them. “So Lord, let it be You through me.” And help us not go off this cliff. My husband gripped the wheel, and I grabbed the Bible beneath my seat, packed for untimely messages just like this. “That title is way above a tween reading level, but let’s see what Jesus has to say about the topic.”
I wanted to just hit them with the “Big 10.” I’d prefer to read all of the ‘Thou shalt nots’ before loudly honking at my favorite commandment, “Honor your Mother and Father,” and then call it a day. But God took us riding through the book of John and stopping in the temple for the show down between religion and love, and facing a woman caught between law and grace.
“Buckle up buttercups, ‘cause it’s about to get good.” I read the woman’s story, and we all hung on every scandalous word:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus,“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. (John 8: 3-6)
My youngest likes sound effects and visuals, and so do I. Shhhhh. Listen. Do you hear that? Neither do I. Jesus didn’t speak a word, but He said everything when He simply wrote in the dirt.
While they wanted to stone her, He reminded her of who formed her. (Gen. 2:7) She watched as dust was set free, with the Creator’s calloused fingers that went swishing and swirling though the canvas of His earth, about to give birth to her storybook ending.
And I think He wrote a love letter that made all of them stutter. Before I formed you, I knew you, I called you by name, and you are mine. (Jeremiah 1:5, Isaiah 43:1)
But they couldn’t take the hint, so He made it more personal.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. (John 8: 6-8)
And then came the sound of the choir and the chorus: “Thump. Thud. Thump. Thump. Thud.” Now here comes the drums. And a bundle of men and sticks and stones dropping like they’re hot. First went the oldest, because I’m pretty sure their legal pad list of sins was the longest. Then down to the youngest, with enough details to fill up a stack of sticky notes they were sure to remember.
I think they got the point, so they all backed up. And Jesus put His pointer finger right on her heart.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:9-11)
I had to pause and stop reading, but our car and His grace kept going. His beautiful grace. It’s not a greasy grace that lets every sin slide and looks away. It’s a grace with grit that sands and smooths, that wipes the smears and the tears. It’s not an eye for an eye. But it looks eye to eye and tells the truth. In an exchange that straightens her shoulders, and leaves her standing in dignity. It’s a face-to-face with a heart-to-heart. The kind that I want to receive and give.
Pick a letter. Any letter. From A to Z. We’re wearing one or the other. You know yours, and I sure know all of mine. But He’s redeeming them and righting them, all while He’s writing our endless love letters. Signed and sealed on the cross with His own scarlet and crimson.
My eyes were locked down on the pages and the words for so long, maybe just like hers, that I hadn’t bothered to look up, to see the finished color of grace and God’s redemption. It’s as white as the snow flocked trees that surrounded us. Pure white. And don’t you know that this woman wore it WELL. And so do we.
“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
My oldest smiled and my youngest said, “Momma, is there more? That was good. Keep on reading.” Oh girlfriend, is there more?! There’s way more, like 65 books more. And they all point to His love.
That’s all. And it’s everything.
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-39)
YOU are His Valentine. Be~Loved.
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