Friday, February 10, 2023

Expectations for an Adultress

Suggested Reading: John 8:1-11

Not long ago, I introduced my children to the movie Mr. Holland's Opus. One of the great things about that movie are the stories of how Mr. Holland, as he invested time and energy into his students, expected things of students who had never really had anyone expect anything from them before. One red-headed student in particular grew up in a family where all of her older siblings were high achievers but no-one ever expected anything of her. Mr. Holland kept pushing her, expecting her to achieve, and eventually she did, not only musically but also by becoming the state governor. 

Previously, we looked at how Jesus refused to play the Pharisees' game with the woman caught in the act of committing adultery, but the story didn't end there. After Jesus turned the tables on them, agreeing to stone her only if the first stone was thrown by someone who was sinless, Jesus was left alone with the woman. He asked her if anyone had condemned her and she responded that no one had. Jesus then added, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin anymore" (John 8:11, HCSB). Having just saved this woman and having refused to condemn her himself, it is easy for me to hear the tone in Jesus's voice in my imagination. Jesus does not speak to her in disgust or in disappointment but in expectation. "Go and from now on do not sin anymore." With that statement Jesus gave this woman caught in adultery something no one else seemed willing to give her: expectations.

In my work with students through the years, I have learned that students tend to give you what you expect of them. There are always exceptions, but in general students behave the way you expect them to.  If you expect them to be disrespectful, they behave disrespectfully. If you expect them to behave like responsible adults, they eventually do. Expectations are a statement of belief in a person, one way or another. Jesus understood this and he gave this adulteress high expectations. Without condemning her, Jesus expected more from her.

Sometimes we are really good at expecting things from people; we just expect the wrong things. Too often, we expect people to fail. We expect people to let us down. We expect people to go on with their lives, never living up to their potential. And we normally get what we expect. What would happen if we expected more from people, without reminding them of their failures by flavoring our expectations with condemnation? How would people change if we expected more from them? Who in your life desperately needs the gift of expectations?

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