Advanced search Click here for the website of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

Skip Content

23 March 2015

Read today’s Gospel Reading: John 8.1-11

This story from John’s Gospel is missed out of some of the ancient manuscripts. I wonder why? Why did some people not like it? Did people not like the idea that Jesus forgave the woman whom the law so obviously condemned? Or did they not like the fact that the good people who condemned her in the end walked away, accepting their own unworthiness to judge? ‘Let anyone who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’

Are we any different? Some people in the church today would rather miss it out. We are far too eager to condemn people, to fling stones at them, to blame them for the mess their lives are in, rather than to understand that we all have a responsibility, and that we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.  How can we make for a more forgiving, more compassionate society? It has to begin not with blaming others, but with taking our share of the responsibility for the way the world is, and for those who have become victims of injustice, inequality, and violence.

What stands out, for me, in the story, is the immense compassion of Jesus towards a woman who was the focus of so much judgmental hatred.

May God give us grace to own up to our own faults, and to try to understand the person who has done wrong, and take their part, showing forgiveness, rather than condemnation.

As my mother used to say to me: ‘Don’t point a finger at any one; for three others are pointing at you’.

Today’s Gospel Reading: John 8.1-11

Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’