Welcome back to another post in my "First Observe, Then Serve" series. To participate in this online discussion, please see my first post of this series with all the information on what to expect over the next four weeks! Feel free to join our Facebook group, as well, where people from all walks of life are joining the conversation.
This week's story is the woman taken in adultery, found in John chapter 8. One thing that I have found when I read this story is that I get more out of it if I think about it from the woman's perspective. We are all this woman. We all sin. We all need the Savior. There will be times when others point out our failings and try to make an example of us. Or there might also be times when people around us try to get us to degrade others because of their sins. The Savior's example from this story teaches us that these are times for courage and service. First, let me give my take on the story, then I'll share more about what I have learned.
One day, Jesus was sitting in the temple teaching a group of people who had come to learn from Him. In the middle of His teaching, His enemies (the scribes and Pharisees) interrupt Him by presenting a woman that had been taken in adultery. They demand that the Savior explain His take on what should happen to this woman. The Law of Moses stated she should be stoned. This is yet another trap that they lay at Christ's feet to try and condemn Him.
The Savior does not answer these men. Instead, He starts to write in the sand as though He did not hear the question. The scribes and Pharisees continue to demand an answer from Him. His answer is profound, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
We do not know what Christ was writing on the ground, but He continued this task. Some people have told me they think that He was writing a list of sins on the ground, specific to the group of men doing the accusing. This is possible. Whatever it was He wrote, as well as His statement, obviously pricked these men to their hearts. I find it very interesting that they leave from oldest to youngest, as well.
By the time the Savior looks us and asks the woman where her accusers are, they have all gone. He specifically asks her, "...hath no man condemned thee?" She responds that none of the men have condemned her. Christ then gives her an invitation by saying, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."
Can you imagine the woman's relief? Without Christ's intervention, she would have died! Each time I read this story, my eyes fill with tears and my heart pounds, knowing that this same invitation is extended to me on a daily basis. We are all in serious danger of spiritual death without the Atonement of the Savior.
Something else that strikes me from this story is the fact that the Savior was in the middle of teaching others. He could have told these men that He would deal with this situation later, but He knew that a life was at stake. He knows that each day, our spiritual lives are at stake!
Instead of just ignoring and continuing on, the Savior met an immediate need first. This is important when we are observing and serving. There are times when we meet people who need A LOT of help. Shoot, I'm that person sometimes! When this happens, it is exceedingly important to make sure that we meet the most immediate needs first. That might mean that we get them some food or water. It might mean that we pray with them.
Going along with this same issue, there are times when it seems like everyone needs a piece of us. It's those times that God expects us to prioritize. We cannot help every single person we know with every single problem they have. BUT, if we are listening to the Spirit, God will let us know what is most important and how to meet that need. It also helps to ask the person what need is most immediate. Making sure that needs in our homes and families are met first and foremost will make it possible for us to then go and be more effective in our service to others.
Another important thing that I see in this story is that when someone is being accused and reviled publicly, that's an opportunity for service. We can be an advocate for others. We can strive to see the good in everyone and make sure that people's names are safe on our lips. Sometimes, this act of service is absolutely priceless. I am not the best at doing this, but this is one thing that pricked my heart as I read. I will be working harder at this.
The next thing I thought of with regards to this story is how Christ was allowing His time to be used in service of this woman. Service, true service, can take time. LOTS of time. Like sitting and consoling someone for three or more hours time. Are you willing to do that? Sometimes we equate giving things as the ultimate act of service. I reject that notion. I think it is far better to give our time to someone. This helps them see how important they are as an individual. Can you image how different our world would be if we all took the time to truly get to know each other? Can you imagine how much easier life would be if there was at least one person you knew would always make time for you? Yes, God and the Savior do have time for us, I know. But we need human interaction. Making time for others is crucial to their well being, as well as ours, because hopefully then the favor will be reciprocated.
The last thought I have about this story is this, and it's the same point as something I mentioned last week--do not judge those you serve. If you want to read my thoughts on that, go HERE (it's number four on my list further down). After this story is completed, Jesus returned to talk to the Pharisees about this issue. He said, "Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true..." Christ will always judge us based on eternal truths, not by how others see us. What a blessing, too. I would hate for my enemies to sway my Savior's opinion of me!
I did have one other thing I wanted to add, as well. When a person is known to judge others through gossip or other unkind interactions, it makes trusting them difficult. Even if they are not bad mouthing you, you still don't know if they will say something about you to someone else and make that person believe you are the worst human alive. People lose friends this way each and every day. Don't judge other people based on another's bad opinion--you will be accountable for it!
Because trust is so essential to service, make sure that your interactions with ALL people are kind and show tolerance. This will make others around you more apt to ask you for help and trust you with their personal issues. This comes from my personal experience and feelings. I do not trust easily, and so when I am around people who constantly complain about others, it makes me very wary about asking them for help. Service is such personal thing, and people want to feel safe. Be the person who is safe by keeping their feelings close to your heart, not easily spilled out of your mouth. ;)
Now it's your turn! What do you see in this story about the need to observe, then serve? I can't wait to hear your thoughts! Feel free to email me, comment below, or join our Facebook group. Do what you are comfortable with! I'll be back next Tuesday with the story of the woman who had an issue of blood. Until then, HUGS and prayers sent your way! :)