The Upper Room devotional reflection for Tuesday, November 23, 2021 comes to us from Beverly Marshall-Goodell of Georgia
1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.
3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:1-11 NIV
“The Person in Front of You”
After moving to a suburb of a large metropolitan area, I felt discouraged and frightened by news stories of nearby criminal activity. It was hard to read about an armed robbery at a convenience store, a hit-and-run accident that injured a child, or a group following a delivery truck to steal packages. My first response was to pray for the victims of these crimes. I could identify with the fear, grief, and anger they must have felt. However, the more I let my prayers be guided by the news stories, the more concern I developed for the perpetrators. I asked myself, “What circumstances would lead my neighbor to these kinds of actions?”
2 Peter 3:9 reminds me that God has been patient with my failings and deeply desires for all people to repent: 3 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. I now feel called to pray not only for the victims but also for those who have committed crimes in my community. I am also challenged to consider how I offer God’s love and forgiveness to the people I encounter daily. My church encourages its members to “love the person in front of you.” This means accepting people as they are instead of judging them. I try to remember these challenging words when I encounter people whose actions I do not understand. Then I ask Jesus to help me love them as he already does.
Prayer Focus: Victims and Perpetrators of Crime
Thought for the Day: Jesus loves every person in my community.
It is very difficult to forgive folks who have committed serious crimes or caused pain or injury, especially to those we love. Beverly Marshall-Goodell reminds us that God wants each and all of us to “love the person in front of us”. God also wants each of us, including those with whom we are very angry, to repent.
I believe that it’s important to remember that “repentance” is not about punishment. Instead, it is about “turning around” or “taking a different path”. When we can forgive, we give another person the opportunity to repent or turn around. Also, it seems important to remember that each of us has moments when we are called to repent. All of us sin and fall short and need to repent by turning around or taking a different path.
Prayer: Forgiving Christ, help us to love and pray for people whose actions we cannot comprehend. Amen. --Beverly Marshall-Goodell