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John 8:2-11 tells us the story of the woman caught in adultery:

2At dawn [Jesus] appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They 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. 7When 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.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9At 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. 10Jesus 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.”

It's a wonderful story of Christ's compassion on an obvious sinner... as well as a story of Christ's cleverness when dealing with the Pharisees.

But what is the practical application of this story?

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Broadly related aside - this chapter actually has a remarkably long-running and deeply contested history for inclusion vs exclusion, which I find quite fascinating: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_and_the_woman_taken_in_adultery –  Marc Gravell Sep 19 '11 at 21:35
    
<deleted non constructive comments> Please keep comments focused on correcting or improving posts. –  Caleb Sep 19 '11 at 21:43
    
Related: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/3506/… –  Flimzy Sep 28 '11 at 9:19
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5 Answers

In the story, everyone there recognised that they were sinners, including the top religious leaders. We should recognise that in ourselves also, no matter how 'good' we try to be. Jesus' compassion is not just for the woman but also for all of us.

This comes to the heart of Christianity and is the whole point of John's Gospel: everyone has sinned/rebelled against God and faces his just judgement. But God sent his Son Jesus to come and save such sinners, and we're invited to trust in him so that we're no longer condemned by God.

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Just a clarification on the last part: Jesus does not just "show compassion" as the OP say in his question. Jesus is the only person present with no sin, so he actually could have rightfullly condemned her, but Jesus chooses not no, and as you say: God sent Jesus to save sinners - not to condemn. –  awe Sep 19 '11 at 11:23
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There are many possible practical applications. In fact, I think this is one of the most commonly used sermon texts. Everyone from ultra-liberals to ultra-conservatives seems to love the passage.

However, it's textually one of the two most disputed passages in the New Testament, along with Mark 16:9-20 (see: Should Mark 16:9-20 be in the Bible?). The passage is missing from many, including the earliest manuscripts, and marked as questionable content (e.g. with a ÷ in the margin) in many others.

Now, the passage is beautiful and I believe it and value it. But given its disputedness, I prefer not to use it for practical applications nor teaching others. For any of the major points, there are other passages that can be used just as well. Some examples:

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Notice the order in which Jesus does things in this passage. He covers the sinner in love and grace, then he addresses the sin. We can learn a lot about lovingly correcting someone from this passage. Jesus does not require us to have everything together, for Him to offer His love and grace. Why should we treat others any differently?

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In this incredible story we see a tremendous clash between law/judgement and grace/forgiveness. I always wonder if Jesus simply began to write the 10 Commandments and each one of the accusers was convicted of his own "coming short of the Glory of God".

Not only did Jesus mercifully forgive the woman but when He spoke, "sin no more" he imparted the "grace to change".

How good it would be if we lived in such a way that our very lives convicted others without "condeming" them.

Beautiful story of mercy triumphing over Judgement and grace lifting a sinner out of their sin to live like Jesus.

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Welcome (again) - yes I agree it is a beautiful story. –  Wikis Nov 19 '13 at 8:18
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Basically all that is above is what i felt but moreover,Jesus also addressed the earth not to condemn people-vs6 and vs 8,unless there is something that was meant by Jesus writing on the ground.

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Welcome to C.SE. When you get the chance, I'd invite you to check out how we are different than other sites. Unfortunately, while I think this has the beginnings of a good answer, it does really answer the question: to wit no practical application, etc. –  Affable Geek Aug 4 '13 at 12:04
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