The Woman Caught in Adultery: Guilt vs. Shame (John 8:5-6a)

Do you struggle with shame? Are you constantly feeling the pain of humiliation or distress caused by focusing on a past sin or foolish choice that has affected your life? It might stem from a misunderstanding of God’s heart of justice.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees saw God as judgmental. Consequently, they were perplexed by Jesus who associated with sinners whom they condemned. When these pious witnesses dragged the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they brought public shame to a situation that could have been kept private. They had no interest in a trial or justice. The religious elite distanced themselves from the woman, demonstrating their tightly-held belief that she had no value, no soul. They shamed her as they deceitfully asked Jesus how He would apply the Law of Moses to her situation (John 8:5).

Whereas, guilt says, “I did wrong;” shame says, “I am wrong.” Shame is not justice: “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him” (John 8:6a). The stones in the accusers’ hands were indicative of their hard hearts. They were predators seeking to condemn and deceive, an affront to the Old Testament teaching: “To act justly” (Micah 6:8).

Justice is getting what is deserved; however, in no way did God design justice to be administered with condemnation, revenge, or shame. In fact, sin in its ultimate form is proud and religious, denying that it even exists in one’s actions. This was the failing mindset of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, which became a barrier to them seeking forgiveness. They adhered to the precept that God forgave sinners. However, they did not believe that God forgave them as sinners. Hence, underneath their judgmental actions was shame in what God would see if He would peer inside them and witness their motives. Their condemnation and shame flowed from their proud, religious hearts of stone.

Are you mishandling justice? Are you characterized and known as a condemner of your children, your spouse, your co-workers, or your friends? Have you twisted God’s heart of justice into being judgmental? Are you acting as the moral police of minor offenses, only to discover you are void of a vibrant relationship with the God of the Universe? Nothing grows in a stone heart. Surrender your pride and shame to Jesus who will soften your heart to be like His and begin to unleash the freedom of forgiveness in your life.

Episode 462: Shame with Kelsey Herber from mitchkrusetv on Vimeo.