My eyes didn’t want to open, but my phone had been going off for five minutes now. Either somebody was drunk and needed a ride, or somebody had died. I crawled into bed at midnight and didn’t feel as though I had been sleeping incredibly long, so it couldn’t have been much later than one in the morning. Sighing, I leaned up and reached over to my phone on my desk. The light from the two square-inch screen was overwhelmingly bright and one of my best friend’s names displayed. Something was wrong.

“Hello?”

The answer was a mess of sobbing and stuttered words. I the voice fit the name, but the message was lost in emotion and a struggle for her mouth to keep up with her brain. She wasn’t making any sense.

“How about you try that again. Slow down, I’m listening”

The story unfolded in excerpts punctuated with more crying. A series of unwise decisions had finally culminated in the termination of a terrible relationship leaving my friend feeling completely and utterly humiliated and feeling used. I had been expecting it. I told my friend when she got together with this man that I didn’t trust him. She called me a skeptic. I told her I didn’t like some of the things he had done in the months leading up to tonight only to hear that my bias against her boyfriend had  really gotten on her nerves.

At eighteen years old, neither one of us knew what redemption was. We were so young that restoration made no sense at all, especially after the mistakes she had made with this man. I could have reminded my friend that I was right all along. I knew right away that he  was scum and that her current situation wouldn’t have come about if she just listened to me, but she didn’t need that. She didn’t need to hear that she relied on men too heavily, or that her whole family had relational problems. I could have told her that all of this came from the wreck of a relationship she had with her father, but that wasn’t important either. The list of issues and mistakes went back to before she was born.

★                     ★                     ★

They dragged her through the town, yelling at their neighbors that they had finally caught her. The adulteress had gotten either desperate, or lazy because it wasn’t particularly difficult to bust her. Her eyes were swollen. Her lip quivered. She wouldn’t look Jesus in the eye, even though he stared at her as if she was the only other person around. many of the men who had escorted her yelled at Jesus, “She was caught in the act of adultery. What now, rabbi?”

Who were these men trying to trap? The prey they already had their hands on, of the elusive teacher who made their lives more difficult? Either way, Jesus’s response was unexpected. “Let any one of you who is be the first to throw a stone at her.”

The woman knew what she had done wrong. She had done it before and probably would have continued if she hadn’t been caught. When they hauled her to this rabbi she had been hearing about, she expected his attitude to be worse than the men who had caught her. Deep down though, she was remorseful. She didn’t want to do the things she did, but somehow just fell into them. She knew her sin. She condemned herself for it. She grew up hearing that it was wrong. Nobody had to remind her that adultery was basically a crime. She needed help to quit.

Pastoring and leading doesn’t always mean pointing out people’s mistakes. most of the time, the culprits know them better than any witnesses ever will. Sometimes, it’s helping someone quit their bad habits, other times, it’s forgiving them. Pastoring will always involve loving them.  So no matter how ridiculous the trespass, consider how much you’ve been forgiven and make sure to pass the grace you received on to another person who needs it.