Out On A Limb

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Some people are natural-born risk takers. They thrive on the adrenaline rush that comes from facing head-on what is yet unknown. To them, there is just something exciting about going all-in when caution and common sense would tell them otherwise. You can probably think of a few times in your life that you have gone out on a limb, as they say, for someone or something you passionately believed in. The truth is, if you are ever going to do what God has called you to do, then at some point you will have to leave what you think is comfortable, take what feels like a great risk, and learn to get comfortable with living by faith.

Even as I write this article, I believe my wife and I are out there at the end of a limb too. There are some changes the Lord has told us to make in our family and ministry that are well beyond our past experiences and know-how. But we’re out there, and we’re loving it! Perhaps you’re on that proverbial limb right now too. If so, I want you to know we’re not alone out here. Our heavenly Father knows all too well what life is like living at the end of this limb. He’s been out here for the last 2,000 years.
I’ll explain.

On one very memorable day in the life of Jesus as He is ministering in the temple, a gang of scribes and Pharisees suddenly interrupt His sermon. They have with them a woman apprehended in the very act of adultery. Throwing her down in the midst of the crowd, they question Jesus saying, “‘Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him” (John 8:5,6 nkjv). Press pause on this account for a moment, and remember back to what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:6, “[We are] ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter [of the law] but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” In the next few verses, Paul goes on to contrast ministry under the law and ministry under grace. One he calls the “ministry of death and condemnation” while the other he refers to as the “ministry of the Spirit and righteousness.” Now back to Jesus and the altercation in the temple. There is a fight brewing, but it isn’t between Jesus and the Pharisees. It is a showdown between the ministry of death and the ministry of righteousness. This religious hit squad comes armed with the letter of the law, ready to condemn to death this woman caught in her sin, and attempts to publicly shame Jesus and His ministry. The pressure is on, and you can be assured that Jesus feels it. But instead of kneeling to the pressure, He kneels to the ground and writes in the dirt as though He does not hear them. “What is He doing down there?” you ask. He’s waiting. He’s waiting because He doesn’t say anything until He hears His Father say it. Then, after what I’m sure feels like an eternity to everyone watching, Jesus calmly rises to the occasion with a word of wisdom: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Then He goes right back to writing on the ground. When they hear His words, these ministers of death and condemnation turn and walk away. John 8:10 says:

When Jesus raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 

She says, “No one, Lord.”

It was at this moment that Jesus takes a flying leap out to the end of the limb. He replies to her and says, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (v. 11).  Of course, we love and appreciate this account in Scripture, but I wonder if we’ve really stopped to think about the enormous risk Jesus takes by letting this woman go. She has been caught in her sin and is, according to the law, deserving of death. But the only sinless person with any right to stone her chooses instead to free her. What is He thinking? He’s just going to let this woman get away with this? If He doesn’t punish her sin, isn’t He just giving her a license to keep sinning? In the words of Paul, “Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1,2). You see, Jesus was giving her a glimpse of a new covenant that was well on its way. He was introducing to her, to them, and to us all the Covenant of Kindness. But I’ll admit: it seems like kindness could be a very risky business.

Ever since the writing of the letters that would one day be our New Testament Bible, there have been people that would take advantage of God and His kindness towards them by using the liberty He has given them as an opportunity to sin (Galatians 5:13). But this is the risk God was willing to take. This is the limb He went out on—a limb called Kindness—a limb called Grace. There are those still asking today, “Since grace abounds, do we get to sin?” And the answer is still a resounding,

“Certainly not!” 

To anyone who has grown up under the ministry of condemnation, the kindness of God could be a hard concept to process because everything was very clear under the ministry of the law. The rules were simple: you mess up; you pay the price. But then came God in His mercy and kindness changing all the rules. Through Jesus, He says, “Here’s the new rule: you mess up; I paid the price.” Can you see what He is risking by saying this? He’s risking that all of us humans would get our first taste of liberty and run right out to literally live like hell. But I guess your Father just has more faith in the power of kindness to draw you, than in the power of sin to pull you away. Perhaps that’s why Romans 2:4 nlt says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

I guess your Father just has more faith in the power of kindness to draw you, than in the power of sin to pull you away.

In the showdown between the ministries of Death and Life, Life won. Jesus not only ministered life to that woman, He also ministered righteousness to her when He said, “Go and sin no more.”

The letter of the law requires you to do things without empowering you to do them. The ministry of grace will tell you what to do, then empower you, strengthen you, and even go to work on your behalf to accomplish the job. I’m convinced that woman came face-to-face with kindness on a level she had never seen before when He said, “Neither do I condemn you.” And I’m convinced there was enough power in those words to rescue her out of her sin, out of her addiction, and out of her shame. With the command to go and sin no more, came the grace and ability to go and sin no more.

So you see, no matter what “risks” you’re currently taking, you’re not alone out on a limb. Jesus is out there with you. As a matter of fact, He didn’t just go out on a limb, He hung from the whole tree (Galatians 3:13). It was the greatest risk ever taken. No one had ever been reborn from death to life. No one had ever been crushed under the weight of humanity’s sin with the aim of rising victorious over it. In a never-before-seen act of kindness, He risked it all. But always remember this: the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Because He was willing to risk everything, He has been rewarded with the love and affection of countless numbers of people that were drawn to Him, not by threat of judgment or fear of His wrath, but by His kindness. And for His kindness, we love Him. “With loving-kindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3 nkjv).

He didn’t just go out on a limb, He hung from the whole tree.

There’s no doubt that kindness is a risk. Many are afraid to take that risk, believing that if they don’t demand respect from their kids, their employees, or their congregations, then they may not get what they want. It’s time to stop being afraid and start living by faith. It’s time to believe there is more power in mercy than there is bitterness, resentment, or anger. This is the difference between people being drawn to you or driven from you. Like Jesus, let us increase in favor with God and man. And, like Jesus, let us write kindness deep within our hearts (Proverbs 3:3,4).

Begin now to grow in a revelation of how kind He has been to you. Soon you will be so full of His kindness that it will begin to overflow into the lives of the people around you. It may feel like a risk, but remember, you’re not hanging from a flimsy twig that’s about to snap. No, you’re out on a limb called Love, and Love cannot fail.