Friday, June 20, 2008

What would you say... a divorced woman who was living with her boyfriend?

Let's just say you work with this woman, or she's the cash register worker at the grocery store, or you stopped to help her change a flat tire... or in some other way you came across this woman and talked with her.

Think of what would go through your mind, or even think of ways in which you've encountered situations such as this, or of ways in which you've seen other Christians handle situations such as this.

I'm going to generalize here, but in my history in Christianity, what I've generally seen is that people (including myself in the past) zero in on the woman's sin. The thought processes and the ways of interacting with the woman all focus around ways in which to tell the woman that she is living in sin and that she needs to get out of her situation. People might invite her to church, hoping that she'll hear the "salvation message" and that she'll then feel convicted and she'll move out or kick her boyfriend out. In some cases people might even tell her to get out of her situation and then come to church. I can think of other scenarios and I'm sure you can too.

I was listening to the story of the woman at the well (John 4:1-42) recently. The normal applications that I hear from this story revolve around "worship in Spirit and in truth," and what that means, or "Jesus is the living water." Those are great applications of this story, and there are other great applications too, but I'm not so sure I've ever heard anyone teach or preach about this: Although Jesus knew that this woman had had five husbands, and that the man she was now with was not her husband, He gave her absolutely no directives in regards to getting out of her sinful lifestyle.

Am I saying Jesus condoned her sin? Of course not! Am I saying He was happy to have her go on as normal? Not at all. But in dealing with this woman (and by the way, she didn't tell Him her situation; He told her), Jesus' focus seemed far off from what I generally see in the church today.

The focus in the church today seems to be "stop sinning!" We go around like the moral police of the world, trying to get everyone "cleaned up." But tell me if you see something different here, but as we look at what happened with this woman, it's not as if the message she got from Jesus when He told her her own life story was "clean yourself up and stop sinning." The message she seemed to get from Him was "He told me everything I ever did! How amazing!" And from this, many people came to believe. And the people asked Jesus to stay (He had only been passing through), and Jesus stayed with them for another two days, "and many more believed because of His own word." And get this - Jesus didn't stick around and start a church or some hierarchical system to make sure all these new believers were discipled and stayed out of sin.

Much more is coming to my mind about what Jesus didn't say or do. I'm sure you see other things as well. The main thing that has struck me from this story since having come to see it from a perspective of grace is that Jesus didn't seem to approach sinners from a viewpoint of "How can I get them to stop sinning and start doing what's right?" but rather from a viewpoint of "I am the way, the truth and the life."

"Come to Me."

"I will fill your hunger and thirst."

"You're weary and heavy burdened? I'll give you rest."

Any thoughts?


  1. Amen Joel! This is a hard one, but before I came to grace, I would have brought attention to her 'sin'. Now, my thinking is much different and I would treat her like anybody else. To me, sin is sin, whether it is adultery, or lying, it's the same in Father's eyes, so I want to see it the same as well! I think Father really proved that in the Gospels when he treated everyone the same and didn't treat anyone 'special'.

    Great Post!

    In Freedom, Nicole!

  2. What would I say?

    "You are living in siiiiiiin. If you don't want to go to helllllllllllll, repent immediately. Run to the near by church (I will make sure it is my denomination's), walk the aisle, confess your sins one by one. Make sure you don't miss any one out... If possible have the pastor and elders lay their hands on you and cry out to God to forgive your sins. Once you do this, then, kick your boyfriend out or you get out from there. Don't you know you cannot 'unequally yoke'?

    Then, I will ask God to give me the gift of "prophecy/knowledge", so that I can expose all her sins and make her guilty of everything she did.

    I will also preach all the more about hell, by quoting all related verses such as unquenched fire and the worms who do not die.

    As the next steps, I would suggest water baptism, tongues, twice a week Bible study, twice a week fasting, at least an hour long prayer every morning, daily confessions of daily sins.

    I won't tell ANYTHING about the love of God, the meaning of death, burial and resurrection of Christ Jesus, Grace, walking by faith or total forgiveness in Christ...heck... what if she take it as a license?

  3. Do I have to say anything to her? On purpose? Can't I just see her as another me, out there, making the best of what she's got? I'm not saying don't speak to her; I'm just asking do I have to have a pre-determined statement prepared?

    Call me lazy, but I prefer to walk through doors that are opened for me, and not try to "carve out" opportunities to be "used". I also note that the question wasn't, what would I say, if the divorced woman spoke to ME, or asked ME a question, which, BTW, I'd consider to be an open door to simply love on another human being, no strings attached.

    Now that I think about it, I guess, apart from a word of knowledge likened to Jesus', in that moment at the well, the only way I'd know she was divorced and living with her boyfriend, would be thru some sort of dialogue exchange, thereby opening that aforementioned door to love on her, which, in this instance, I believe, equates to caring, which I've learned is not something I can conjure up on my own, which brings me to my own need to first be transformed into the image of my Father, which can only happen as I experience His love relationally, and thus, brings me full circle again to probably needing her to just talk to me and love on me a little, so I don't feel so inept. Wait a minute... who's supposed to be helping who?? Ahh crap! Can't we just all BE??

  4. Joel,

    There are so many Christians running around putting themselves in the place of the Holy Spirit. I guess they think it's their job to "convict" everyone around them about their sin and what's going to happen to them if they don't change their ways. I should know, I used to be one of them.

    Funny thing happened on my way to "Sainthood," my sixteen year old daughter got pregnant out of wedlock. She really put her mother and me through the wringer, before and after she got pregnant.

    God sure works in mysterious ways. Through that hard time He drew us all closer together and taught my wife and me about His grace and mercy. I don't believe you can truly understand the depths of the grace that God has shown you until you are put into the position of showing it to others.

    Long story short, our family is closer together than we ever were. It is awesome to look back and see God at work in a situation that wasn't in His perfect will, but one in which He caused everything about the situation to work out for our good and His glory.

    Hopefully there is an answer to your question buried in there. :)

    I don't think it is necessarily wrong to point out to someone that they have made the wrong choice. I think it has to come from a position of familiarity and love. I can tell a close brother in Christ things I can't tell someone else. He knows I am not coming from a position of judgmental self-righteousness, but from a position of caring for him and not wanting to see him get hurt.

    Bob George says something I like. I don't know if he came up with it, but it rings true with me. You hear the phrase, What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD) That puts the focus in the wrong trying to imitate Jesus in the power of our flesh. It would be better to say, Look What Jesus Did? (LWJD) Jesus lived in complete dependence on the Father. He went where the Father told Him and said what the Father told Him to say. He did nothing on His own initiative. That is the life that Jesus came to model for us and through that life He demonstrated the same love, grace and mercy that will have its expression in us when we rest in complete dependence upon the Father.

    In Christ,

  5. Hmm... Old me? I would have felt guilty as all get out for not having the 'guts' to say something about it to her.

    New me? I wouldn't much care. I'd be more concerned about her story - her heart - how she was doing - on the inside, than what she was doing on the outside and whether it was 'acceptable' behavior.

    I have been on the receiving end of a religious lecture at the hands of a 'good samaritan' who felt that I would not have driven off the road and gotten stuck if I was going to church. That certainly did not make me want to run to church - to God.... bleah!

  6. Great comments, everyone. I see us all looking at this from various angles and I fully appreciate and love what everyone has said!

    Bino, you are the most correct. Stone her! LOL

    I think my original question may not have been the best. "What would you say to her." I wasn't really intending to focus just on words, but I meant to contrast more the overall way that Jesus interacted with a woman in those shoes compared to what I've seen in today's church culture. When the church today interacts with a woman whose sin isn't as "refined" as their own sins (you know, like gossip disguised as prayer requests, or pride in the form of "I'm living a better Christian life than you"), they seem to hone in on her behavior.

    When hearing this story of the woman at the well the other day, it just struck me as to what Jesus didn't say or do. He didn't elaborate at all about her situation of having had five husbands and now being with a man who wasn't her husband.

    Instead He talked about living water. He talked about worship. He revealed to her that He was the Messiah! He gave her good news and she went and shared the good news with others, and many came to believe! How different would it be if one of today's Christians approached the woman in the way that the church does today? As has already been touched on in the comments here, how receptive would the woman have been? Would it have led to anyone in her community believing in the Messiah? With a focus on the woman's sin, would anyone's life have really been changed?

    Gary, I like what you shared about Bob George and "LWJD." I've also heard Steve McVey talk about WWJD. He has shared something that is very similar to what Bob shared. Just as Jesus looked to the Father and did what He saw the Father doing, we today look to the indwelling Christ and see what He is doing, and that's what we do. Instead of What Would Jesus Do, it's more like What Will Jesus Do? My friend Mike and I talk about this in one of our upcoming programs.

    Anyway, I'm so glad to see what seems like so many more people these days looking at each other with grace eyes. It's taken me time, and I'm still growing in it, and it's always great to be "one anothering" each other in this!

  7. Obviously the story of the woman caught in adultery comes to mind here as well. When all the religious people were focused on the woman's sin (and by the way, what about the man's sin here?), Jesus turned it completely around to a matter of God's mercy and grace.

    And so what do people in the church do today? I've had many, many conversations with people about this over the years, and countless times people skip the mercy and grace and go right to, "Well, Jesus told her to go and sin no more!", as if that's what this story was all about.

    Why did He bother with all the grace and mercy then!

    What I see... and I invite comments on this as well... is that Jesus opened the door of God's grace and freedom that this woman had never been through. Then, not as a command but more as an invitation to walk in the freedom, He let her know that she was free to live her life of sin.


  8. Two women - Alone - Unprotected and no one, not a one standing up for her or standing with her amongst all the judgement and cruelty shown to each of them. Why were they in the situations they were in? Jesus knew and He approached. Jesus' love and concern for women specifically in these two situations, but as we see continually throughout the NT, is such an encouragement to me.

    Today, men would not approach such women especially in the church and perhaps they would outside the church but not for the purpose of helping....if you catch my drift.

    Women are abused, neglected and judged and mistreated as harshly as no one else in the church and don't even go outside the church to see the travesties that are done to women and I think that Father revealed very clearly to Jesus the value of women and He very clearly attempted to demonstrate the Father's love for these women to the people that surrounded Him, but more than that He showed these women in a truly loving and intimate and unacceptable manner of the day that He himself could approach them and not be fearful of the sin they found themselves in rubbing off on Him.

    I totally think that this is in part what Jesus was trying to impart to the people around Him. Love and respect each one as each one is unique and significant to the Father....what is in your heart? Are you far from any such brokenness because you are a male or a father or a spiritual, I think we are called into community and sometimes that is an unsafe community, because there are all "kinds" in that bring your brokenness and I will bring mine...Jesus the Perfector of all things will lead us in times of fear and questioning and keeping our distance from "those"....the organized church has not done a very good job of this...the whispers, the questions, the looks, and they don't even know the situation nor do they recognize their own.

    Truth be man probably could have approached a woman like these women or like the women in less than perfect conditions today not because of the woman and her life.....but because of their own. Ouch! When Jesus leads ...He leads us where the need is, not into comfortable cell groups of "safe" people professing faith. No doubt, He does work in those groups but don't forget the less than desirables never invited into the would make the group so much more uncomfortable.

    Sorry for the is such a desire for me to see women of all kinds, singles, single agains, divorced, widowed etc. loved so much more in a real way by their spiritual family especially if they find themselves in less than "the ideal" situations.

    In Him,


    Hope this comes across the way I have meant it.....we are called to come alongside our brothers and our sisters, not force them into situations to live alone outside the circles of support and fellowship because their life doesn't look like our perfect lives.

    Looks can be deceiving.

    Sin? I don't know that these two accounts were about sin alone...we all think the sin of these women was so horrific....give me a break, who were the men, and where were they? Where were the women's families, physical or spiritual? Sin is sin...given that, what was the real matter of the heart of these women. They were in situations of desperation and aloneness...Jesus approached.

    Jesus knew.

  9. I think Jesus' admonition to the woman taken in adultery to 'go and sin no more' was simply an encouragement to live out the grace and love He had just shown her. It wouldn't make sense, after what she had just been shown, to go back to that life of sin.

    I just lived through an experience that illustrates this. My 10 year old son, Jeremy, almost drown last week. He and his older brother foolishly ignored my countless warnings to the contrary and went wading in the dangerously flooded creek near our home. A strong current pulled Jeremy under and away as Jacob watched, then ran for help. The next minutes defy description, as Jacob, his older sister, and I called 911, then raced back to the creek, certain we would find Jeremy dead.

    Miraculously, after going under several times, Jeremy was able to grab a branch and pull himself to safety. When we reached him, he was fine but for a few scratches.

    This story made the news, and when people hear it, they usually have one of two reactions-- to berate Jeremy for disobeying his mom in the first place, or to sternly warn him of ever doing that again. I know they're both valid reactions to a degree. But what those of us who truly believed he was dead, and found him alive feel, is the incredible joy of experiencing the mercy of God.
    Savoring the relief of his rescue will do more to keep my son out of those waters than will shame for what he did, or angry warnings to stay away. (By the way, that shame and anger hindered him from opening up and venting how frightened and guilty he felt, until he knew it was 'safe' to share his feelings with us.)

    One reporter asked Jeremy if he will ever swim again. To which he replied, "Yes, but not here." Of course not!! Those waters represent death to him. Why would he go back in?

    If we grasp that we were indeed dead, and then made alive, why would we want to go back to our old dead ways?

    We had a family celebration of Jeremy's rescue. I don't know about you, but I could use a little less condemnation and criticism for my failures and sins, and a little more celebrating of God's amazing rescue!!!

    Kathy J

  10. Vanessa,

    I really like the heart of what you are saying here. I don't think it's harsh at all, but honest. Maybe harsh and honest, but all good. :) Indeed I think it's true that men don't understand the unjust place women have been given in the church. You said so much that speaks to that, that I simply can only say Amen to.

    And as for the "less than desirables" that don't seem to get invited to the club - or do get invited to the club but only if they can become desirable like everyone else - you've really struck a chord with me there. So many people over the years, I've wanted to 'invite to church,' but yet I didn't want to invite them because I worried about how they would be treated by the club members. So as I knew how I simply tried to love them where they were at and didn't bother sending them to church.

  11. Kathy,

    The story you shared about your son is a wonderful, wonderful example of how our Father sees us and treats us in regard to the things we do. I've watched the news clip you sent me a couple more times and I couldn't help but think how wonderful it is for your son that he has a mother such as you who loves him and didn't rush to punish him but rather treated him as the dead son that you thought he was, brought back to life. That is SOOOO God. :)

    Again, I think what you shared is a wonderful representation of Jesus words "go and sin no more." Not a legalistic rebuke, but a gentle invitation to a new way of living in the life that He's freely given us.