I read this today and thought it very good and worth sharing. Your thoughts are welcome.
Take the story, for example, of the woman taken in adultery as related in John’s gospel (8:2-11). Whatever the debate over the provenance of the story, or of the biblical typology of “writing in the dust,” the existential moment was fraught with drama. In what was clearly a preplanned maneuver, the scribes and the Pharisees interrupt Jesus’ teaching to the crowds by thrusting the accused woman before him and demanding whether he would affirm Moses’ teaching on stoning for adultery, even though all knew that no one could be put to death without Roman approval. Christ was being asked to choose between Moses and Caesar.
But what the Pharisees conceived to be a debate became for Christ an opportunity for conversion.
Before reason can find its voice, the passions must be calmed. Christ stoops down and writes something mysterious on the ground. The gesture distracts and diffuses the emotions of the moment. The question to him is repeated. He then rises and chooses not between Moses and Caesar, but by reason looks to save the life of the woman and the souls of her accusers. In a statement as universalizable as any moral philosopher could utter, He states, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
After the truth is spoken, it needs be considered and reflected upon. Jesus stoops down again and continues writing, Then the key moment arrives—the moment of choice, the moment of metanoia. It is one thing for the mind to assent to a proposition. It is another for the will to act upon it. As John Paul II was reported to have told penitents as they were about to leave the confessional, “Now, go choose!” Or as Abraham Lincoln understood, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.” There is a difference between the mind saying that a particular woman is the one I should spend my life with and plighting one’s troth.
They—the scribes and the Pharisees—make their choice: “But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest.” The one with the authority acts first. He does not continue the argument. He does not try to save face. He chooses, humbly in fact, to affirm the dignity of the accused woman, for, under the Mosaic Law, without accusers, there is no crime. He departs the scene, and the others follow, “one by one”—each individually changed—leaving the woman innocent under the law. Christ has ministered to those who reason.
From: Mirror of Justice, “David Forte on Hadley Arkes: A Ministry to Those Who Reason“