Am I a merciful person?  

Posted by Denis Haack in , ,

In his new book Jerram Barrs has a chapter on the striking episode in Jesus’ life that is recorded in St John 7:53-8:11.

They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 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.”

Jerram’s reflections on this text are exactly what those of us who know him have come to expect from him—thoughtful, true to the text, and sensitive to real people living real lives in a broken world. What stunned me, however, and what I want to highlight here are the study questions he included for this text. Unless I am badly out of touch with the sort of discussion that usually goes on in Bible studies today, his questions are of a different sort entirely. The sort of questions we should be addressing but usually don’t. Truth be told, I don’t even think of them.

1. What in your life would you hate to have exposed for public humiliation? This is a question to answer on your own, just between you and the Lord. If you are considering these questions in a group setting, it might be valuable for everyone present to take a few minutes to reflect on this question before discussing the following ones.

2. Are there particular sins in the lives of others that you have exposed for condemnation or even for the public humiliation of the sinner?

3. Are there unbelievers, maybe in your own family or workplace, to whom you need to apologize for the way you have criticized or judged them in the past?

4. What are the sins that preachers most often tend to parade for the church’s condemnation?

5. Are there particular kinds of sinners from whom you have desired to separate yourself?

6. Why do we all find it so much easier to see the sins of others and to criticize them, rather than to see our own sins and to criticize ourselves?

7. Are there examples in your life and ministry where you have shown the kind of mercy to a sinner that Jesus shows to this woman?

Source: Learning Evangelism from Jesus by Jerram Barrs (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books; 2009) pp. 253-254.

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