aim higher | John 8.9-11
But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8.9-11 | ESV
Stunned by what they heard, they began to clear out, one by one, from the oldest to the youngest of them, until she was left all alone – just the woman, right there in the center. Looking up again, Jesus spoke to her. “Woman, where did they all go? What, no judge and jury to condemn you?” She said, sheepishly, “Lord, none at all.” “Well then, you won’t hear any condemnation from me either. On your way – only, from now on, out of the gutter – let’s aim higher.” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
To observe that Jesus isn’t in the condemnation business but rather in the grace business can easily lead us to conclude that life is a free for all with God and everything is up for grabs.
That’s the beauty of this story.
We travel through the cutting, condemning edge of bad religion, see the incisive, healing touch of Jesus, witness the absence of condemnation, and are then confronted with the true nature of grace.
Grace isn’t a pass to do as you please (though we all mostly will excel at doing that far too often!),
it’s empowerment to
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, teaching/training/instructing us to say ‘No’ to worldly pleasures and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager/zealous/passionate to do what is good. These are the things you are to teach!”
So says Paul to Titus.
The engine driving our transformation is God’s grace in us – and drive us it will, right into a new way of seeing people, approaching life, making choices.
Unfortunately, we tend to get this all backwards.
We think favor has to be earned, grace merited by us cleaning up our act. But he’s the one who does the cleaning. And he’ll do plenty of it in each of us every day of our lives, cleaning us up and out, getting us on our feet, empowering us to move forward.
This story gives us a glimpse into such grace.
And it’s a costly grace.
It involves a ransom and cost that he has paid, that he invests.
As Bonhoeffer so aptly observed, the grace we would bestow on ourselves is a cheap grace that costs nothing and changes nothing. But the costly grace of Jesus doesn’t just get the woman dusted off and then sent off with the message to “carry on.” The impacting impulse of grace is to cut off the flow of our own moral sewage, and step up to higher ground.
Grace meets us in our mess, cleans us, and then sends us forward and upward.
This is so what he does…
What does “grace” mean to you? What has been your most impacting experience of grace? How did this experience change you? In what ways has it led you to aim higher in your life?
Lord, open my eyes to your genuine, life-changing grace. Free from all illusion that I have to clean myself up to receive your grace – and from the delusion of a cheap grace that’s no more than a pass to do as I please. Show me, by your grace, how to aim higher, live better, love deeper. Through Christ.