I marvel at how, too often, we define people by what they’ve done. We do it with others and with ourselves. And we sometimes do it with those whose lives are recorded in the Bible. I think the epitome of this error is when we talk about “The Woman Caught in Adultery.” Anyone with a basic knowledge of the gospels is probably familiar with her story. (If not, it’s recorded here in John 8.) And yet when we get to heaven, we will not see her bearing that scarlet letter. In the eyes of God, she is not “The Woman Caught in Adultery.” She had a name in life, and now she has a new name. This is how we will know her.
From this day forward, I’m going to call her “No Longer Condemned.”
This poem is written from her perspective.
Caught in the act,
Too late to retract,
This latest offense.
Pulled from the bed of my illicit lover,
Frantically grabbing a sheet to cover
My naked body from the leering eyes
Of lustful men in religious disguise.
They wrongly believe their self-righteous zeal
Will appease the lust and guilt that they feel.
So they lash out, condemning, accusing,
Oblivious to the grace they are abusing.
And yet I cannot deny
I’m guilty of this crime
I confess I did not try
To even resist this time
And overtakes me.
And nearly breaks me.
They drag me before a rabbi from Nazareth,
I feel like bait in a trap they have set,
Caught so they can try to catch him,
Accused so they accuse him of sin.
Confusion mixed with humiliation,
No way out of this shameful situation.
How did I ever come to this place
Of such dishonor and disgrace?
Just an adulteress without a name,
I feel the rising blush of shame,
My nakedness runs deeper than skin,
Dark passions lurking deep within.
Defenseless I weep,
As each accusation rips
And pierces deep
Like arrows with poisoned tips.
But in my disgrace,
Here in my fears
I find a safe place
From these verbal spears.
This man, this teacher
This prophet, this preacher
Looks upon me with love, not lust
With eyes that invoke hope and trust
And in the midst of this chaos and din
The noise and mayhem don’t seem to faze him.
He calmly traces his finger in the sand
Absorbing all their raging demands
When he looks up, his gaze pierces each heart
And his soft, yet firm, answer tears them apart,
“Let any one of you who is not a sinner
Be the first to throw a stone at her.”
As this truth takes hold,
The clamor dies down
Stones once held
Now fall to the ground.
And starting from the oldest man,
They quietly, slowly leave,
Convicted that their scheming plan
Revealed their own hypocrisy.
I find myself alone
With this new-found friend.
I find myself known
And no longer condemned.
His hand and his love raise me to my feet.
My shame is lifted and my fears retreat.
My accusers have dispersed like my guilt
And finally all my defenses wilt.
With love in his voice and in his eyes,
He peels away my thin disguise.
He asks, “Where are your accusers?
Does no one condemn you?”
Timidly, I reply, “No one, sir.”
Though I can hardly believe it’s true.
Then with a voice soft and sweet
That bids my fear and shame retreat,
I hear the words like refreshing water,
“Neither do I condemn you, my daughter.
You are redeemed and restored,
In my grace, go and sin no more.”
Love sweeps in and floods my soul,
For the first time ever, I feel whole.
Forgiveness and redemption are mine,
Mercy and grace, surreal and sublime.
No longer broken,
Or compelled to pretend,
Jesus has spoken,
I am no longer condemned.