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Neither do I condemn you

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.

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About the Author: Jennifer

Jennifer Strickland is a wife, mom, TEDx speaker, and former professional model. She is the author of Girl Perfect, More Beautiful Than You Know, and Beautiful Lies, among other books and Bible studies that teach women their worth in God’s eyes. Since leaving the modeling industry, she founded URMore.org, a non-profit ministry that provides resources to hurting women and girls. Her favorite moments are found working on the family ranch with her husband, who she calls “the Cowboy”; in her kitchen, concocting a new version of her famous spaghetti; or spending time with their three precious children.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

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

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

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.”

Thelma Wells

Thelma Wells, D.D. (Hon), President of Woman of God Ministries
As a teacher, participator, and observer of public speaking for most of my life, I’ve come to realize that many speakers make one of two mistakes when interacting with their audience (especially when that audience is mainly teenagers.) They either expect their audience to climb up to their level (which feels unattainable to the crowd) or they step down to the level of their listeners (which feels cheap and pandering.) The best speakers meet their audience where they are and lead them up to where they want them to be. This feels genuine. This is what Jennifer did over the last few days at our school.
Jennifer Strickland is a funny, engaging, dynamic speaker. She shares truth with authority and credibility that comes from both experience (her story is powerful) and an obvious depth of study in the Bible. The ideas she presents about Value, Identity, and Purpose are truths everyone needs to hear.
I heartily recommend her for your conference, school retreat, or any event where you want your people to be encouraged and challenged with deep, impacting truth.

Andrew Doan

Andrew Doan, Concord Christian Academy, Concord, NH

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