Safe? Of Course He is Safe. He is the Safest Being in the Universe
One of my favorite things about summer in the north is we begin the day outside and end it there too. Since screening in our porch, all the in-between minutes are spent out here too. I write this from a corner perch with a river view and just feel so grateful. There have been many years in my life when a perch like this with a view like felt like a pipe dream of the most cruel kind—an impossible unmet desire. The past few years have been fraught with a thousand difficulties, but our home has been a gift that keeps on giving.
It has me thinking about the importance of feeling safe and how critical that is to our healing. I don’t think I knew how very unsafe my body has felt most of my life. I have words now for the state of my body in its previous forty years—freezing, fleeing, fawning, and sometimes (rarely) fighting—but for a long time I just thought this was how a body was meant to feel in the world.
Not all of us can change our home or relationships or location to move into a safer space, but if you are wondering if this is how it is meant to be for you or always will be, I hope you can remember the actions of Jesus with the woman “caught in the act of adultery” in John chapter 8.
I write about this narrative in A Curious Faith:
Naked, vulnerable, revealed, her body very likely used more for the man’s pleasure than her own. Quick and nasty, caught and then brought. Dragged out into the street for the pleasure of some more men, religious men who want to catch someone else in a dirty act too, Jesus himself.
“‘Teacher,’ they say, ‘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.” (vv. 4-6)
We will perhaps never know what it is that Jesus wrote in the dirt at the woman’s feet, but it is one of those questions I plan on posing to him when I see him someday. Do you know what I believe, though? I think Jesus was giving them a chance to see how foolish their plans were. I think Jesus was being long-suffering, maybe stalling. I suspect he was thinking to himself, “Surely they see what a fools errand they’re on, but maybe I’ll give them a minute.”
Not to be caught in error, though, they continued on questioning. So Jesus straightened up and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (v. 7)
And then the men scattered.
Jesus turned to the woman and said some of the most beautiful words in the whole of the Bible: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (v. 10)
Christians love to talk about the last part of this passage, after the woman answers Jesus’ question in the negative and he says, “Go and sin no more.” (v. 11) I’ve heard that line ten thousand times in my life, in sermons and debates and defenses and apologetics. Christians love to talk about how the Christian life is one of turning away from sin, doing right actions and being right before God. But I can’t help but notice that the first concern of Jesus was not that she turn from sin, but that she felt safe.
The woman’s sin was of secondary concern to Jesus in that moment. He wanted her to know a few things:
First, he didn’t condemn her.
Second, he was under no illusion that her sins were worse than the Pharisees who threw her at his feet.
Third, Jesus wanted her to say it, right out loud, “No one, sir.”
No one condemns me. He doesn’t. They don’t. And I don’t.
I will say this again and again for the rest of my life: Jesus is safe. Jesus is the safest human to have ever walked the face of the earth. And until we believe that in his presence we’re not condemned, the words, “Go and sin no more,” have no power. They’re just a method of behavior modification. They’re the route straight to becoming a white-washed tomb, sparkly clean on the outside and stinking of death inside, which is why the irony of this narrative is it was the religious leaders who caught and brought the woman to Jesus. They were pointing at her and Jesus pointed at them instead.
Preorder A Curious Faith now and get the rest of this chapter.
Some more words, beauty, or thoughts I’ve found this week:
Alan Jacobs writes about Keeping Things On His Chest this week.
These stunning woodcuts for The Swiss Family Robinson.
Ella’s words on a traveling art journal.
This piece in the Times about climate change’s effects in Utah.
I’m always on the hunt for faithful believers who are wielding their pens with grace and prophetic insight, and Sara Billups is one of those without a doubt. I hope you’ll consider adding her Bitter Scroll to your regular reads (and bookmark her book Orphaned Believers, coming from Baker Books next year!).