Are you in a struggle to determine whether you apply justice or mercy in your interpersonal conflict? Jesus was presented with this dilemma when the Pharisees orchestrated a trap for Him with the woman caught in adultery. If He administered justice, He would break the Roman law that required a trial before capital punishment. If He demonstrated mercy, He would break Jewish law that called for stoning her. What would He do? What should you do? This powerful story unfolded three heart conditions: stone, sand, and clay.
Renewed by His time with His Heavenly Father, Jesus faced an early morning conflict with an ulterior motive by those who brought it: “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 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’” (John 8:1-4).
The woman’s accusers knew Jesus was a friend of sinners (Luke 15:11-12). The Pharisees were actually making a legal claim: “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:5). The Torah stated that both the adulterer and adulteress should be put to death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-24). The law required that two witnesses actually saw and warned about the unmistakable act before it occurred. The Mishnah said the unfaithful fiancé caught in adultery must be stoned, but wives strangled. The woman brought before Jesus must have been betrothed, meaning she could have been 14- to 15-years-old. In a day when marriages were arranged, she might have been in love with someone else.
With whom do you identify in this scene: the teachers of the law and the Pharisees or the woman caught in adultery? Perhaps you have struggled with whether to apply justice or mercy in your interpersonal conflicts, including marriage, parenting, sibling rivalries, the marketplace, or even ministry. What if there were a different solution, one in which you did not have to choose one or the other? Take your conflict to God and sincerely ask Him to give you the wisdom of Christ. Pray for Him to shape your heart to be like Jesus’ as you surrender every piece of your life to Him.