Over the last 2 weeks we have been focusing our conversation on Sunday mornings around the idea of Flesh. (BTW..if you have a chance make sure to pick up a copy of the book Flesh by Hugh Halter…well worth the read).
Two weeks ago we looked at the overall concept of the incarnation, that being of Jesus taking on flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhood as John 1:14 in the Message puts it. In other words becoming fully human. The incarnation being the first step on the 5 step grid of incarnational/missional life and enfleshing Jesus in the world around us.
Last week we talked about the street cred/reputation of Christians vs. the street cred/reputation of Jesus. That Jesus got people talking and we get to do the same thing. That Jesus developed a great street cred by 1. Being human. 2. Having a job. 3. Picking fights. and 4. Being a friend of sinners. And that for us to develop a better street cred in our world we need to live out the same four. 1. Be human or normal. 2. Redeem work. 3. pick fights about things that matter. 4. Be a friend of sinners. The main point is that if we follow Jesus we cannot be judgmental. After all doesn’t Scripture say that Jesus came not to condemn but to save?
So today we are looking at the next two steps within the 5 step grid of enfleshing Jesus in the world, that of conversation and confrontation. If we follow the incarnational way of Jesus, we will get to speak about Him and have some great and natural conversations about Him with our friends.
If you’ll notice that after conversation, we finally get to the world confrontation. It seems like Christians vacillate between the two. Either we develop a relationship and are really good at conversation and never really get to bringing Jesus into the conversation. Or we are really good at confrontation and having not relationship with people, which then comes off as judgmental.
We should want to have conversations and loving confrontations. We should want to know that people have to come to a point in their lives where they honestly admit their sin and their need for Jesus to save, redeem, restore, and renew them. The Scriptures speak often about spiritual rebirth, being born again, confessing sin, and finding hope and forgiveness in Jesus.
So we constantly sway between conversation and confrontation and never really seem to get the right balance, the incarnational balance that Jesus had. In fact Jesus doesn’t want us to confront or condemn at all. He wants us instead to learn to walk with people as He did. And then confrontation happens naturally as we converse as friends.
Let’s look at a Biblical story where Jesus does this conversation/confrontation beautifully. It is the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:2-11.
“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. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said.” “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
A couple things that we need to note while looking at this Scripture text.
First of all we notice that this woman clearly had sinned. She was caught in the act of adultery. Now we realize however that adultery isn’t a sin that you can do alone. After all, the saying goes, it takes two to tango. And so I’ve long wondered where the guy was. I truly believe this woman was set up from the beginning. That the whole thing was put together in order to trap Jesus and there was no care for the woman at all from the Pharisees. She was a casualty of their “war” with Jesus. She was a pawn in their chess game in order to bring down Jesus.
Secondly, her sin definitely had some affect on her and on the various relationships that she brought into that adulterous encounter. No doubt it affected her relationship with the guy, maybe the guy’s wife, her husband, etc… But ultimately her sin was against Jesus, the man who they brought her before, in order to hear what he thought they should do with her.
They thought they had Jesus trapped. They brought this woman before Jesus in order to hear what Jesus thought they should do with her. There were only two options or so they thought that Jesus could answer. First, the one they mention is that the law of Moses commanded that they stone the woman. They are referring to Leviticus 20:10 which actually says, “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife- with the wife of his neighbor- both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.” If he said don’t stone her, he would be accused of not following the Law of Moses. And so while they tried to trap Jesus with the Scriptures, they weren’t following the law “either”. The second option, they thought about, was that Jesus was going to say “Sure, stone her” and then he would be accused of not loving this woman. So it looked like a no win situation for Jesus. (Jews didn't have the power to execute someone..bringing the Roman Empire down on his head)
And so Jesus does this amazing thing. While the Pharisee’s are there confronting Jesus (notice no conversation and no relationship with the woman.), he stoops down and writes in the sand. It doesn’t matter what he writes in the sand. But one thought that I had, that I can’t totally prove, but is an interesting idea to consider, is that he drew a line in the sand and sided with the woman and not with the Pharisee’s. But the stooping down also had an affect of protecting the woman who no doubt was on the ground covering herself waiting for the hail of rocks to come her way. He showed his protection and care by stooping down and being beside, being with and being for this woman, when the Pharisees were against this woman.
Jesus expertly then got rid of the confronters. Her condemners. They dropped their rocks. He disarmed them by saying, “Let anyone of you who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus exposed that sin is sin. Jesus advocated for the life of the sinner. He had her at hello. Her heart was won. After Jesus won her heart, after he removed condemnation, he had a private conversation where confrontation was natural and welcomed. Because she knew that she was loved and not condemned.
This is the beauty of Jesus. Remember that Jesus came to help people see who God is and that he came chock full of both grace and truth. You can be full of grace, full of love, full of acceptance AND the full truth of your life will eventually be accepted by those who need to change. The key to this is the friend part. Remember Jesus was called a true friend of sinners.
You see he didn’t just have a conversation with the woman. He didn’t just say, “Hey your cool. No problem about the adultery. Whatever. It’s all good.” And he didn’t just confront her and tell her she was wrong, evil, going to hell, etc… No he loved her, showed her no condemnation, showed her an amazing amount of love and grace. And also when she knew that she wasn't condemned, he did confront her and called her to leave her life of sin.
So if Christians could seek to live out this incarnational Jesus like way of developing relationships/conversations, then things like talking about Jesus and having loving confrontation would come naturally. So let’s wrap this message up by looking at what it might look like when we have friendships where speaking about Jesus might come naturally. Here are a 3 things that we can learn about Jesus and living an incarnational/missional life.
1. We get to keep a running conversation instead of running from a conversation. We’re used to trying to get a Jesus word in edgewise or aggressively forcing a conversation, but since conversation is between friends, we don’t have to do the dump truck thing and hit them over the head with doctrine, Bible verses, religious philosophy, etc…. We can actually be human and just talk about what they want to talk about in the timing they are open to.
2. Keep the conversation focused on the Kingdom of God not on religion, Christianity, or Christians. Take a note from Jesus who spoke mostly about the Kingdom of God. The other things are always the topics other people bring up, but defer to Jesus and the discussion about the Kingdom.
Take some time this week to read Luke 4 and Isaiah 61. Remember that almost every person would love for God’s Kingdom to show up. And when you get confronted with lousy Christian stories, it’s better to admit that we as Christians miss the Kingdom a lot. We are more like the Pharisee’s than we like to admit.
3. Talk about the King. Again, every lousy thing that has happened to people through religion or in the name of Jesus was not Jesus himself. Try to help people see the difference between Jesus and everything else that has happened under His umbrella. Point people towards Him and not towards the church, Christians, etc…. Bring the conversation back to Jesus.
In closing I want us to imagine how much different everything would be if we are full of grace and truth. When I think about this, I immediately feel less pressure- but at the same time more excited to speak about Jesus. Who might God be calling you to continue having the conversation with this week?
So let’s unpack a little bit more of the story of the woman caught in adultery. What stands out to you in the story? What don’t you understand? What challenges you in the story? How can we better live this kind of incarnational life out in the world? Who is God calling each of us to have conversation with this week (and share lovingly about Jesus)? Let’s converse about those things.
1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, etc… do you have regarding the passage of Scripture and/or the message?
2. Share a story when you felt condemned like the women caught in adultery. How did that make you feel? Share a story when you condemned someone else. How did that make you feel?
3 Who might be God laying on your heart to have a conversation with and continue to develop a relationship with? What next step do you need to take in the next week in order for this to happen? How can Veritas pray for you in this regard?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?