*Editor’s note: The Police Officer(s) that killed George Floyd is absolutely not the adulterer in this story. I was using how the Savior reacted to a situation.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what is going on in the world right now. I’ve wanted to know what the best thing to do or say would be. As the host of a podcast about the Savior, I have to watch my words. People look to me as an example. And although most of the time my example is saying, Guys, learn from my mistakes, this wasn’t the place I wanted to do that. I needed some insight here. So I turned to my go-to when I need guidance. The scriptures and prayer.
The story that kept coming to my mind was the story of the woman taken in adultery. I wasn’t sure why at first, it didn’t seem relevant to the problems we are facing. But upon further examination, I think there are some important lessons we can learn from this story about how the Savior dealt with conflict.
The scene opens with Jesus Christ sitting in the temple teaching the people. A commotion arises as a group of Scribes and Pharisees drag this woman in and toss her at the feet of Jesus. (There’s a video you can watch, I’ll link it.)
These guys are mad. She had broken the law. The law said they should stone her. And that they easily could have done without bringing her to Jesus. But they brought her to Jesus, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. They were like, This guy preaches love and commandments all the time. Let’s see how we can catch him in this, make him look bad. They wanted to make Jesus misstep, and they also wanted her to publicly get what she had coming to her.
So, they come in all riled up. (Watch the movie). They say to Jesus, but what sayest thou? Everyone is watching; the scribes, Pharisees, and everyone else who was at the temple who was listening to him preach.
And what does Jesus do at that moment? He kneels and starts writing in the dirt, as though He heard them not.
I’ve thought about this before but thought harder about it today. Why the pause? Why writing on the ground? We never find out what he wrote.
I think, maybe, he was giving them a minute to settle down.
They were genuinely mad. She was genuinely wrong. They wanted justice! They wanted her punished. I think the Savior understood this. Even knowing their underlying agenda, I think He was giving them a chance to be heard and to be mad. The Savior knows when we are frustrated. He knows we need to feel heard.
So He did that. He listened.
In the very act! they yelled. They jeered.
And still, He just sat there, writing in the dirt.
He didn’t stand up and say, Calm down. Everyone just stop. You being mad is wrong. The way you are handling this is all wrong! He just gave them a minute to settle down. Then, when some time had passed, He stood and said, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And then he knelt back down and continued writing in the dirt.
He didn’t start calling any of them out. He knew all of them, their hearts, and their deeds. He could have laid right into them. Tim! You steal from the treasury all the time. Jebadiah! You slept with the woman up the street last night! He could have stood up and called them all out. But he didn’t. He left them to think for a minute. He gave them time for some introspection.
And I don’t know why this one time the Pharisees decided to be humble, but they did. Maybe because the question came with the power and force of the Holy Ghost into their hearts. Maybe for that moment, they couldn’t deny who was speaking to them. I don’t know, but they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last.
They didn’t justify anything. They didn’t say, Ya, but what I did wasn’t as bad as adultery! She’s worse than me! They stopped looking around at everyone else and just took a good look at themselves.
The story continues, And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
He goes to her now, the one who was hurting. The one who had just been dragged into the town square, embarrassed and humiliated. He turns to her to comfort her, not to judge her. And he says, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord.
And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
And that’s the end of the story.
Here’s what I learned from the Savior about how to deal with conflict. I want to follow His example as much as I can in my life. He laid out the ideal for all of us. He taught us the right way to act.
First, I’m going to sit at the feet of the Savior and listen to all He has to say as often as I can. The story started with Him teaching a bunch of people in the temple. I can take more time out of my life to give place for Him and His teachings. When I read and study His life and His teachings I always want to be better.
Second, I’m going to spend less time rounding up people to throw in the dirt and spend more time judging myself.
The thing that made the Pharisees the worst was that they couldn’t be content to just be good themselves. They didn’t feel happy or worthy unless they were MORE worthy than everyone else.
So if I don’t want to be a hypocritical Pharisee, I need to spend my time looking at myself and my family’s attitudes. I don’t make myself look better by pointing out how bad everyone else is doing. It’s an important thing to remind myself.
Third, I’m going to try to spend more time writing in the dirt. I’ve spent too much of my life immediately reacting to the world around me. Legend has it, that my Grandma Marge used to go outside in the back and count and take some time when she was angry to settle down. I never saw her even ruffled before, so I don’t believe it, but if it’s true I need to learn how to do it too. I need to spend more time out back.
I watched the movie about Mr. Roger’s life last week. He was such a good dude. Part of the reason why was because he took some time to swim out his anger or pound loudly on the piano every once in a while. Mr. Rogers didn’t pound on people when they disappointed him. He found other ways to get that frustration out. He didn’t pound on people.
I need to learn better ways to behave when I’m angry. And better ways to respond to other’s anger. Maybe a few more minutes writing in the dirt before I respond is a cool lesson.
I can incorporate the Savior’s example by just keeping quiet and letting people vent their frustrations. I don’t have to respond to everything I read or every opinion someone puts on social media. I just don’t.
Sometimes people need to vent. I don’t have to get sucked into telling them what I think about what they think. Very seldom does that lead to anyone feeling uplifted. It just leads to more contention. Sometimes I just need to listen and try to understand.
Next, I need to remember what the Savior did after the crowd dissipated.
The Savior of the world, the man who wrote the laws and had all the power and authority to enforce them didn’t judge the woman on the ground in front of Him. He comforted her and gave her some good council. He didn’t judge her.
The scriptures are replete with warnings from the Lord that He is the only righteous judge. He sees things as they really are. He sees hidden hurt and factors I don’t see. I can’t judge with all the facts, no matter how well I’m doing. Because it isn’t my job. I need to quit thinking it is. I just get myself in a mess when I start thinking I know more than everyone else and that my way is the best way.
Humility is going to change hearts far faster than any amount of name-calling and social shaming is going to. What if we all took a good, long, hard look at ourselves and then made some necessary changes? ALL OF US?
Can you imagine if all of us came clean instead of calling everyone else out?
Have I laughed when I shouldn’t have? Did I not step up when I could have? Have I tried hard enough to understand what is going on around me?
And if we find faults in ourselves after some private introspection, I hope we can say, I’m so sorry. I want to be better. I want to change. Please forgive me.
Being convicted by [our] own conscience sounds pretty refreshing about now.
Finally, I will go comfort someone who is hurting.
I can ask a black man, a Hispanic woman, or a police officer, How are you feeling? How is your grief? And then I can listen. I can try to better understand. I can love unconditionally and I can try to console and help anyone who needs it. And I can teach my children to do the same.
And listen closely, because this is true. If I ask a police officer how his grief is, it doesn’t mean I’m a racist and I hate black people. And if I ask a black man to tell me his experiences with racism it doesn’t mean I hate the police. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. Let’s be more like Christ. Pharisees wait to see who they can point at. The Savior waits to see who he can help and love.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said this and I think it’s a fitting ending.
No one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another. …. He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other.
Let’s call for reform and stand up for change. Let’s hate what happened, but not each other. We can be better.
Shine on friends!