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The Necessity of Forgiveness 15: The Adulterer

The Necessity of Forgiveness Day 15 – The Adulterer

As I write today’s title, I can’t help but think of a book I read in high school called The Scarlett Letter. Hester Prynn, accused of adultery, was forced to acknowledge her sin before others every day. On the front of her dress, the letter “A” was emblazoned in bright red. The letter stood for adulterer, and served as a way to humiliate and humble her. Everywhere she went, people stared at her with disgust. She was constantly reminded of her past and treated poorly by those around her.

Maybe you know an adulterer, or have been hurt by one, and are reminded of the pain resulting from adultery along with its consequences. As one familiar with its ache, it’s an area in which forgiveness seems impossible, yet it is commanded by a holy God. We see this through an account in Scripture, in John chapter 8. Let’s look at a piece of it together:

“As he [Jesus] was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. ‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?’ … But Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ‘All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.’” (John 8:3-11, NLT)

Jesus is not trivializing the sin of adultery—it’s clearly named in Scripture as being a serious sin—but He is making a statement to those who thought they were above this woman and considered themselves more righteous than her. We do not know what He wrote, but whatever it was, it clearly convicted each accuser enough that they simply walked away. 

Have you been hurt by adultery? Are you holding onto bitterness over what happened to you? As believers, we must not do that, but instead, we must offer forgiveness and set ourselves free. Regardless of whether or not there is reconciliation, we cannot hold onto bitter feelings or grudges, and we cannot use what happened to us as justification for continuing on with ungodly feelings. We may not get an apology or witness remorse. We may not see restoration, but we can release the feelings that are holding us back from abundant life in Christ. 

This woman was set free by the One she had sinned against—all sin is against Jesus. We don’t read more about her life, but my hope is that His forgiveness made all the difference for her. When we have been chained under the burden of sin, release feels incredible. Is there someone for whom you can be like Jesus and help “unchain”? What an honor it is to live in such a way that we reflect His heart, especially when it’s most difficult to do so.

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