There was this woman with a big "A" on her chest. No, not Hester Prynne from the Scarlet Letter, but her predecessor. Her name in the Bible is simply "a woman caught in adultery." Maybe she is nameless because that’s how she felt the day the teachers of the law and Pharisees brought her to the center of town and made her stand in front of everyone so they could stone her, or at least jeer at her. Maybe that day she felt nameless … until Jesus stepped in.
As the story goes, the religious leaders tried to trick him into condemning this woman along with them, but Jesus refused. Instead he bent down silently, writing something in the sand with his finger (perhaps a list of their sins?). They kept questioning him, so finally he straightened up and said, "If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." At this, they all walked away.
"Woman, where are they?" he asked her. "Has no one condemned you?"
"No one, sir," she replied.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
The men had gathered to throw some stones that day. To point the finger and expose her shame. And Jesus certainly could have done the same. But he didn’t. He didn’t rebuke, criticize, judge, scorn, lecture or remind her of all the bad things she had done. Instead, he exposed their judgement: their shame. And he treated the woman with love and compassion.
Jesus had this compassion for people that is tough to find on earth, even in churches. As humans we feel compassion for children suffering disease, the poor and lame, those who experience a tragic loss. Compassion comes easily for the innocent.
But the guilty? Those who have clearly done wrong? Clearly forsaken their loved ones? Compassion simply is not the natural human response.
We all know people who we wish would change. We wish they would see the consequences of their poor choices. We wish they would see their sin, their shortcomings, their character flaws and fall at God’s feet saying, "I’ll change!" But this does not happen, so we argue, cry, plead, beg, criticize, scorn, remind them of their shortcomings … to no avail. Why doesn’t this approach work? Because judgment and shame do not bring about lasting change, which can only begin in the heart — the place where God and man meet one-on-one.
I have been called judgmental before — and I say that to my own shame. I see people who I love still trapped in the ways that I lived before Christ came into my life and became all that I needed . . . and I feel so helpless to get them out of that slavery to drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever it is that has them in that empty, repetitive cycle. And sometimes I may not throw a stone, but I might shake my head. I don’t think I’m better than them; I just feel so frustrated that they do not hand these things over to the only One who can truly turn their lives inside out.
But this is what God is teaching me: Jen, do not judge. It will never bring change. Only love will. Look at the world through my eyes. See the woman with the "A" branded on her chest as I do: as my child, lost and hurting. Hold out your hand to help her up, and if she does not take it, pray for her. Do not lift your hand to throw a stone — for you too were lost and alone; you too are in need of a Savior.
Who in your life might need less criticism from you and more compassion? Who do you wish would change? Try Jesus’ approach: faith that if they only knew how deeply you love them, how much you sympathize with whatever they are facing, they would change … for good.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
At the age of 18, I was recovering from an eating disorder, cutting, and suicide when I read Jennifer Strickland’s book Girl Perfect and it changed my life. At the age of 33, as I travel the world reaching youth for the gospel, this is the only book I recommend to girls who are struggling. The Lord has truly anointed Jennifer’s words through her story, not only to address the struggles of today’s generation of girls, but also to walk them through the healing necessary for victory.
Jennifer is a captivating speaker. She keeps the listener hanging in wonder of what’s coming next! Her presentation is not only absorbing, it reveals the truth of God’s power to heal a wounded spirit.
Barbara Brown, Former Stonecroft Ministries Regional Representative, San Diego, CA
“The ‘P’ word [perfection] may be the heaviest burden women bear. All the misguided things we do to attain it can keep us away from what we need most – the unconditional love of God the Father. The Girl Perfect Study Guide gives you a map to the wholeness you were created for.”
Nancy Ortberg, author and former teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church
“The Girl Perfect Study Guide shatters the lies girls and women believe and points to the ultimate truth, which really does set us free. I am confident that this study will help thousands discover a beauty, purpose, and worth that truly lasts. Thank you Jen for exposing the ‘perfect life’ and inviting girls to experience God’s ‘perfect love.'”
Allie Marie Smith
Allie Marie Smith, Founder of Wonderfully Made
One of the best testaments to what Jennifer is doing for the young girls and women of today is a comment from my eleven-year-old granddaughter: “Grammy, I want to read this book and hear her again. She’s good and I learned a lot.” This is exactly what I experienced from a grown-up perspective when I was introduced to Jennifer Strickland’s amazing story. Read it and see if you don’t get the real story from an icon model and a powerful speaker of truth.”