There is no greater model for mercy than the life and words of Jesus. A healthy confrontation of sin comes as a by-product of a heart that has encountered true mercy.

“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court,..” – John 8:3

They began to press Jesus for a death sentence. Legalism is often justice twisted to serve a selfish end, and no one is better at practicing legalism than a Pharisee.

“But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’” – John 8:7

These Pharisees saw a chance to make their point with Jesus and it came with a human cost. They sought to trap Him with their strongest weapon, legalism. Legalism is justice without mercy; it is always blind to people. Jesus never caved to the pressure. He stooped down and wrote in the sand. His finger moved through the dirt, slowing time, focusing attention to the main issue. Jesus acted in conformity to the Law, but more importantly in conformity to the heart of the Law. Pharisees could quote the law, but they didn’t understand the law.

Jesus released His convicting invitation. “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Our sense of justice flows from our impurity. Jesus’ justice flows from His mercy, His heart of love.

We should be sobered by the fact that this type of scene has played out thousands of times throughout history, but rarely is there such a favorable outcome. It is a dead heart that chooses legalism.

 “…For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” –
James 1:20

There are many issues in our lives that we are not happy about, or ones that we’ve even said, “that’s not fair!” or “I want justice!” While we are upset by what has happened, we cannot truly see justice until we carry the same heart as God, a heart of mercy. Without it, we are just like the Pharisees. God’s justice brings healing and restoration along with the confrontation of sin. We see that in how Jesus addressed this woman once her accusers left.

“Go and sin no more.” – John 8:11

Next time you’re tempted to cast a stone, slow down and start drawing in the dirt. True justice brings healing and restoration, not just confrontation of sin. God heals and restores as He convicts of sin. Let us follow in His merciful and wise footsteps.


Gwen Gibson serves as the Pastor for the HOPE CENTER—the place at HRock where we encourage and offer hope for those struggling through the tough places of life. It is her joy to help others discover the freedom they long for and know how much they are loved by God.

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