Summary: The story of the adulterous woman helps us see that we should welcome sinners just as Jesus did
We have been preaching through the book of John. Early in the book we sense the tension between Jesus and the religious leaders that led up to Jesus’ death.
If there was anything that rankled those religious leaders, it was the way Jesus welcomed all kinds of people, especially those regarded as sinners: tax collectors, prostitutes, and adulterers. Jesus reached out and welcomed them all. John 8 helps us to see what we need to do if we are going to be like Jesus.
Billy Graham’s daughter Ruth writes in her new book, “Loving unbelievers the way Jesus did is the most overlooked key to growing a church. Without his passion for the lost, we will be unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to reach them.” (Ruth Graham. A Legacy of Faith: Things I Learned from My Father)
Jesus taught us to love the unlovely, to befriend the unfriendly, and to welcome those who would be unwelcome in other places. That was the work Jesus engaged in. It is our work today. And if we need a reminder, all we need to do is walk around the back of the building and see the motto of our denomination there: Continuing the Work of Jesus. Peacefully. Simply. Together. I hope it can be said that we are doing that, because it is out there for everyone to see.
Unfortunately, a lot of people outside the church have the impression that they are not welcome inside the church. I don’t know how often Sue and I have heard expressions like, “I don’t have the right clothes.” “I’m not good enough.” “I don’t have any money for the offering.” I’m afraid the church has not done a good job of letting people know they are welcome, especially those who are looked down on - jailbirds, thieves, alcoholics, addicts, and prostitutes.
Tony Campolo, professor of sociology and well-known Baptist preacher, tells the story of his visit to Honolulu for a conference. On his first night there, he awoke about three and left the hotel to find a place to get something to eat. He found a tiny coffee shop with one man behind the bar who served him coffee and a doughnut. Tony was the only customer until, quite suddenly, the coffee shop was filled with women. Some sat at tables, others at the counter near Tony. From their conversation he learned a great deal about Honolulu’s night life. These women were prostitutes.
He says: “I overheard the woman sitting beside me say, "Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be 39."’
Her friend responded in a nasty tone, "So what do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Ya want me to get you a cake and sing ’Happy Birthday?’"
"Come on!" said the woman. "Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. Why do you have to put me down? I was just telling you it was my birthday. I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should you give me a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my life. Why should I have one now?"
When Tony heard that, he made a decision. After the women left he called over the fat guy behind the counter and asked, "Do they come here every night?”