Paulo Ueti, Christian Aid’s Brazil Country Manager, made this reflection available as part of a global faith leaders’ webinar on gender-based violence, hosted by the Anglican Alliance.
John 7:53 - 8:11
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.’
Violence against women is the result of inequality.
It prevents voices being heard and conflicts being revealed. It stops us from living in harmony.
Social norms, culture, systems of law and people in positions of power conspire to maintain the system of abuse and inequality.
As in the Bible passage above, religious discourse and the interpretation of sacred texts are sometimes used to justify actions that lead to exclusion and oppression, instead of connection, healing and salvation.
As persons of faith, we are called to read and interpret the Bible and other sacred texts in a way that brings life and stops violence.
We are summoned to declare violence as sin. And here we are talking particularly about violence against women and girls.
Challenging the system
The sin in this text from John’s gospel is in letting men in power twist the law and theology to bring death to the woman.
We are called to follow Jesus, not the law – or, at least, not this twisted interpretation of the law.
Jesus took the woman’s side. He even put himself in danger by choosing to uphold her life.
He chose to challenge the system and those who did not want the system changed.
He spoke truth to power; he suspended moral judgment and defended life.
Questions to ask ourselves
Where are we today? Who are we challenging with our theology?
Which systems are we choosing to uphold?
Who are our voices, bodies, structures, budget and prayers helping - the men who wanted to stone and murder, or the woman and Jesus in their vulnerability?