Of the many things that can be said about the woman caught in adultery in John 8, if one focuses on Jesus and His response to her, one cannot but leave the scene with tearful eyes; and not necessarily for the woman in the account but for one’s self.
The poor decisions we make in life often leave scars and some are so terribly visible. This problem is compounded by the seeming endless supply of those who are willing to cast the first stone (which shows them to be more foolish than the group Jesus was addressing). However, the fact that we are social creatures does not demand that we cater to every hypocrite’s harassment; the relationship that really matters is the one we have with God.
Looking down on this woman, possibly clutching for covering (8:4, “caught… in the very act”), totally embarrassed (being “in the midst,” 8:3, of “all the people,” in “the temple,” 8:2), and fearing the worst from the Righteous Judge (“that such should be stoned,” 8:5), Jesus said, “neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (8:11). How would she spell relief? Such a trauma would demand therapy… or better yet, the love of God.
Jesus did not condone her sin (no matter what hatefulness led to her discovery, she was wrong); He forgave her sin. Jesus did not excuse her sin (what others do does not mitigate our sin, we are personally responsible for our actions); He commanded her to cease her sin. Jesus did not condemn her in judgment (she was already judged guilty, even she knew this); He released her in mercy.
Someone once sang, “Scars are souvenirs you never lose, the past is never far.” Someone else said, “Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same” (Job 4:8). However, when Peter denied Jesus, the resurrected Christ told Mary, “But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee” (Mark 16:7). There is no starting over like starting over with the Son of God; in fact, there is no starting over without Him.
How long they talked about this woman, how long Peter would look back in shame, we do not know. Paul did not deny his “Saul-disposition” but stated, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
We cannot forgive our own sin, we cannot excuse it, and we are certainly due the condemnation that awaits us. But for Christ, there would be no hope, only scars.