The Way we Treat Women
By Pastor Luke Jones | July 1, 2018
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.
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.
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. 10 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.”
I have recently preached a number of sermons on Biblical Heroines wherein we addressed a number of issues relating to how God calls women and not just men to acts of courage and justice, to go beyond the boundaries their culture might otherwise inflict upon them. I feel that there is one more lesson along these lines that we need to hear but I have had a hard time preparing it in a way that fits in the context of a sermon so I am addressing it here.
Have you ever noticed that our culture treats men and women very differently when it comes to sexual sin? Though there are wide variations within out American culture on what people believe to be sexually permissible, in general, our culture allows men a great deal more freedom than women. If, for instance, a man and a woman sleep together one time without making any commitments to each other it is often considered a mark of honor or prowess for the man and a mark of shame for the woman. A man who sleeps with many women may often be well thought of or at least forgiven but a woman who has slept with many men is labeled forever with some of the most derogatory names our language has invented. Why are we so inconsistent? There is more than one problem here to address, but how to straighten out the mess?
It may come as a surprise to us to find that Jesus, apparently, faced the same expression of sexism during his ministry. In the story of “the woman caught in adultery,” Jesus saves a woman from an angry crowd of condemning men and forgives her of her sin, challenging her to sin no more. But where is the man she committed adultery with? The passage does not say the woman was known to have committed adultery, it says she was “caught in adultery.” Well, where is the man she was caught with? Why isn’t he being dragged before Jesus as well for stoning? The teachers of the law were ready to condemn the woman to brutal death but the let the man go? Just like in our own culture, there was sexism present in the way the culture reacted to sexual sin.
Our reaction to such sins ought to be guided by Jesus choice in this area. Jesus offers forgiveness in place of condemnation and challenges the forgiven person to change. The way we are taught in our culture to permanently label women for sexual sins in the past is not Christlike. Our goal ought to be to offer forgiveness whenever possible. But it is equally un-Christlike to let men sin sexually without identifying their sin as such and calling them to repentance. Ignoring sin is not the same thing as forgiveness. We cannot truly forgive sin without recognizing it, drawing it into the light so we can see clearly how far from God’s righteousness it has taken us, and admitting to ourselves and to each other than it needs forgiveness. Treating men who have sinned sexually with the love of Christ starts with calling sin what it is.
Sexual sin is a whole world of poison. It ruins hearts, marriages, families, churches, and whole cultures. We compound the destructive effects of sexual sin when we add sexism into the situation, treating men and women very differently who have made the same choices. The Christlike way to address sexual sin is to recognize it, offer grace to the one who has fallen into it, and call all people to a higher standard of holiness.
May the God of love teach us to love all those who have tarnished the wonderful thing that God created when God invented sexuality. May God help us to bring healing and wholeness to all those who have been the victims of sexual sin, whether the sins of others or of their own choices.