Saturday, April 12, 2014

Run the straights. Appreciate the curves.

After a day of travel with a bunch of teenaged tracksters on a crowded mini-bus, I now savor some alone-time in my hotel room. I love these kids and their enthusiasm (albeit unbridled at times). Nonetheless, when the rooming gods assigned me a suite sans children, I must admit to the extreme effort it took to suppress the happy dance hidden away in my soul. Time to write. Time to reflect. Time to breath deeply and with great content.

As the air conditioner rhythmically grinds away in the corner with an unusual rattle, it silences outside distraction. The television is off and email and Facebook have been X-ed out. What remains are the thoughts making their own strange rattles in my heart and soul. 

I enjoy these kids. I embrace being their coach. I savor the relationship I have with them, being able to convey lessons I've learned along the way. I am passionate about helping them understand who they are as children of the King. And I yearn for them to realize God's intention and purpose for making them athletes, among other things. They, you, I, have been prepared for such a time as this.

As I daily watch these kids take to the track, I can't help but notice the straights and curves. The 200-meter indoor track has short straights and tight curves. The 400-meter outdoor track sports longer straights and more gentle curves. But in either case, the curve is where the action is. The curve is what makes makes the race interesting. Imagine a 1600 or 3200 meter run conducted on an arrow-straight course. That would be about as enticing as walking barefoot across burning coals.

I've lived my share of straights and curves. Some of the straights have been, well, pea-picking boring. But after spending some time on a tortuously curvy course, the straights have also meant a time to relax and get back in the groove of precious routine. The thing is, its impossible to appreciate the straights without some curves.

At the moment, I'm running a curve--and loving every minute of it. With the wind in my hair and the track disappearing under my feet, I can't wait to see what is around the next turn. I am leaving the known to run to the unknown. 

After teaching school and coaching, being a cardiovascular perfusionist for 25 years, consulting, teaching again and coaching, I've hit another curve. However, I’m convinced that God has orchestrated events and equipped me with the skills, passions, and abilities to fill a new role. I'm grateful when I look back. It's like climbing a densely wooded mountain trail. You know the winding path is right, but do not fully appreciate your position until you break onto the open ridge, now able to see from where you've come and what lays ahead.

God has called me to full-time ministry with the Central Virginia Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). I am slated to be FCA’s area representative. My goal is to officially begin on July 1, fully funded, although I am scheduled to coach and speak at summer FCA sports camps prior to that date. Being funded will allow me to approach the fall seasons without distraction, concentrating on ministry instead.

FCA is the largest sports ministry in the world. Since 1954, FCA has challenged athletes and coaches to impact the world for Jesus Christ. FCA annually reaches about two million people on every level—professional, college, high school, junior high and youth. FCA staff is 800 strong in over 400 local offices across the country. Our efforts are focused on the“4 C’s” of ministry: Coaches, Campus, Camp, and Community. You can read more about this approach on FCA's website.

FCA is committed to building up, training, and sending out coaches and athletes to minister for Christ. Without doubt, coaches are some of the most influential people today. Hundreds of thousands of young athletes will be impacted for Christ as we encourage, equip, and empower their coaches. My role in this process includes: 

          Working with local schools/colleges to develop FCA clubs (Huddles) on each campus 
          Establishing Bible studies for coaches/teams; developing chapel programs for teams
         Training student leader through FCA Campus 101
         Speaking to teams and other audiences/writing materials helpful to coaches and athletes

The task of impacting athletes and coaches in Central Virginia is too large for me alone. FCA is structured such that I raise support to cover the practical costs for my own training, training coaches and volunteers, books, Bibles, team materials, funding to enable students to attend camps, campus activities, team meals, hospitality for coaches, travel expenses, national administrative costs, and much, much more. Though salary and insurance cost must also be raised, more than half of the budgeted monthly need ($7,300) is used directly in ministry. I say this to be transparent and assure you that your support will be wisely used to advance the Kingdom of Christ.

Therefore, I’m seeking faithful teammates to consistently invest, enabling this FCA ministry to go forward. Your prayers and financial support (which is tax deductible) provide the foundation for my service. Though your response at any time is welcome, hearing from you by the end of May will be such an encouragement! If you prefer electronic giving, please visit to set up automatic payments.

I pray Christ’s richest blessing be upon you, your family, and your work as you seek and follow Him!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

For such a time as this

The Biblical book of Esther reads like a movie. (Oh yeah, it has been made into several movies.) Here's the short of it.

Xerxes is the king of Persia (from 486 to 464 BC) and his wife, Vashti, has been thrown out of the palace and de-queened for not running to the king when beckoned. The king then begins a search for a lovely young virgin girl, his servants combing the kingdom for the best candidates. But from the gathered masses of long locks and curvacious figures, Esther captures the King's eye. As it turns out, she becomes queen.

But the story is not so simple. Esther's cousin, Mordecai, had raised Esther as his own when both her
parents died. So as any protective parent would do, Mordecai spent his days near the king's gate, hoping to keep an eye on the young queen of Jewish descent, having warned her not to reveal her heritage. His diligence was even responsible for overhearing a plot to kill the king, thwarting the plan when Esther offered timely warning.

However, the king's right-hand man, Haman, was a powerful and vengeful man. People everywhere bowed the knee as he passed by. People everywhere, that is, except for Mordecai as he spent his days gate gazing. The egotistical, power-hungry Haman was so incensed that he not only plotted to kill Mordecai but all of his people group, the Jews. Haman ran to the king, convincing him to render an edict that would annihilate the people whose "customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them" (Esther 3:8).

The king agreed. But little did Xerxes know his queen was a Jew, in fact, the cousin of this Mordecai. Maintaining his vilgilence at the gate, Mordecai dressed in rags and ashes as he mourned imminent mass murder. Nevertheless, he was able to get word to Esther. He tells her of the plot and pleads for her to approach the King and beg for their lives. This was not, however, a simple feat. Death was assured for Esther if she entered the majesty's presence without invitation. Nevertheless, Mordecai says this: "Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:12-14)

The story has a providential ending. Esther reveals Haman's real intent, Haman find himself impaled on the pole intended for Mordecai, Mordecai is honored and brought into the palace, and the Jewish population is spared and protected from future harm by royal decree. You have to love this historical story.

But what resounds with me is that little phrase, "for such a time as this." It was not happenstance that Mordecai loved and raised his orphan cousin as his own. It was not coincidence that Esther found herself in the exclusive "queen-in-training" program. It was not lucky she found favor in the sight of the king. Neither was it fluke that Mordecai became the unlikely unraveler of plots against the king and the Jewish people. Seeing the providential events unfold, he reminds Esther that she is where she is soley "for such a time as this."

I just had a birthday, my fifty-seventh. Though I am not someone who gets all excited about holidays, even my own birthday, having one puts things in perspective. I've had many experiences in all these years. Some have been pleasant, some hard, lessons learned, some unfortunately ignored. But the sum total of my years has equipped me "for such a time as this."

I am looking at making some major changes. These changes would not have been feasible fifteen years ago, perhaps not even three. But I am convinced that God has orchestrated events and equipped me with certain skills, passions, and abilities to fill a new role. Is it a little scary? Sure. However,  when I look back and understand what has brought me to this place and time, I am grateful. It's like climbing a densely wooded mountain trail. You know you are on the right trail but do not fully appreciate your position until you break onto the open ridge, now able to see from where you've come and what lays ahead. That, my friends, is a gift from God.

Stay tuned for more news in this developing story.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Olympic inspiration

Cue up the music. Roll the film. Panoramic vistas of rugged mountain peaks. A visual montage of athletes flipping and spinning, intensity at the start and fall-on-the-ground exhausted by the finish, smiling and devastated, victorious and defeated. I can't seem to get enough of this stuff.  All of it. The good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly. The games conducted under those five interwoven rings get me every time. 

I can't remember a time when I did not feel the pull of competition, the appeal of running fast, the joy of pounding the ball into the ground. I had grand plans to make it to the Olympics in a variety of sports. (Please don't laugh.) The pathway to achieve them began with handsprings over the couch during commercial breaks while watching the summer games. Even my elementary gym teacher, Mr. Stranges, told me he was sure he would see me compete one day on the Olympic stage. I never, ever forgot that.

 2003 Jungle Marathon, Brazil (Kappes Adventure Press)

So, did I make it? No. I made decisions along the way that took me out of the running. I decided against a spot on an AAU track team because the girls were "rough" and made me feel very out of place. I turned down scholarships at a powerhouse track program to attend a small Christian college that had no track program. Nevertheless, I played three sports in college, and continued to play USTA tennis and USVBA volleyball at a high level as a post-collegiate athlete. And then, years later, someone said, "I bet you can't run fifty miles." I bet I could. I was 37 at the time. I am still running
long at 57.

People often ask me why I run. It's a simple question with a complex answer. Just ask one of the athletes I coach. The other day she wore a t-shirt bearing this phrase: "If you have to ask me why I run, don't bother." Snide and haughty perhaps, but it implies there is something deeply spiritual about putting one foot in front of the other. It also suggests that some people just don't "get it."
Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail Run (Photo credit, Seth Trittipoe)

So, why do I run? Why did I play sports all through my high school and college career? Why persist
in adult leagues and competitions as an adult? I used to glibly answer, "Because I can." But not now.

While it's true that I can run, I've realized that a better answer would be, "Because God made me this way." There's a big difference. No. A huge difference.

What's your answer? Why do you do what you do, be it athletics, writing, crafting, music, or something wildly different? I've always approached athletics--as a participant and a coach--as a way to mature spiritually. Sports teach so many lessons about steadfastness, staying the course, perseverance, and wholeheartedness. We equate the toils of training as opportunities to "press on" and "run the race with patience" (Philippians 3:12-14; Hebrews 12:2).

Rebekah's cross country team on a trail run

There's nothing wrong with using athletic analogies. The writers of Scripture used this parallelism to make important concepts more understandable. However, when thinking about God's sovereignty, I've come to realize that His express purpose was to make me athletic, to make me a runner. It didn't happen by accident. I relate to Eric Liddle, the Scottish Olympian who is quoted in Chariots of Fire: "I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure."

Why is that? Is it so I can set records? So I can be in decent physical condition? While those things may happen, I suggest they are not reason enough. The reason why God made me a runner was to equip me to ultimately reflect His character. I have to look at my athletic endeavors as a means to an end, not a means unto itself. If I can run (even if more slowly now) to present Christ to people, then I will run. If I can attempt trail records so it gives me a platform to write about God's faithfulness, then I will go to the mountains. If I can use my experiences to coach and encourage young people, then I will continue down the trail to lead them.

2013 Hellgate 100K
I suggest we consider our talents, no matter what they be, as a specific means to God's end. That should be motivation that lasts beyond a hastily made self-promise.

My friends, run silent, run deep. Run long, run strong. One step at a time.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Books have movie trailers, too!

Pictures can be worth a thousand words. But a movie is worth a million.

 Spend a minute and a half to be inspired. We hope the new movie trailer for
 Best Season Yet: 12 Weeks to Train
will inspire and motivate.

To learn more about this book (which is available in both coach's and athlete's editions), click here.

You may order from the website store or from any bookseller, including Amazon.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Life, Death, and the Hiding Place

"It's a matter of life and death. . .  Life is short. . .  Live like you are dying."

These phrases roll off the tongue like water off a duck's back. We either use them without thinking or use them thinking they might inspire. It's not that they are not true and worthy sayings. It's just that their overuse lessens their impact.

In the last two weeks, an equal number of young people in our circle of friends have died; Kristie Kitts and Peter Thorton. Kristie, a bright and promising nursing student was on her way to work early one Sunday morning when the car hit a patch of icy road. Her car careened over the embankment, Kristie thrown about like a ragdoll. She did not survive the impact.

Peter, an effervescent young man, was chatting with a friend out on the balcony of the house. The railing gave way, both friends plummeting to the ground. Peter's fall was fatal.

Both Kristie and Peter spent time with our family. Kristie often came to visit and share a meal when her boyfriend was living with us. Peter was our neighbor when we lived up in the Boonsboro area. Seth, our son, and Peter must have been cut out of the same mold: fearless with a side of reckless. They did what most boys do, but even more so. They rode dirt bikes, adventured in the woods, raced lawn movers and go-carts up and down the driveway, spent hours twilight sledding down the big hill whenever snow fell, cut trails through the woods, and wiled away the time down by the lake. Those were good days.

I sat beside Seth at Peter's memorial service yesterday. The grim reality of the gathering was palpable. The church was packed in support of the family, the only remaining seats in the choir loft. Gary and I, along with Seth and Claire (his girlfriend) walked the center isle of the sanctuary, climbing the stairs to our seats. Once seated, I took in the beauty of the church, massive, interlocking timbers sculpted into place. I noted the uniquely arched doorway at the back of the room, thinking how it could beautifully frame a wedding couple. The sanctuary's shape was that of a "t". Or perhaps the layout was intended to be a symbolic cross, so appropriate for its function.

As I scanned the solemn faces in the pews, I wondered about each one's connections to Peter. I assumed the older set were friends of Danny and Melissa, Peter's parents. One section, in the alcove to my left, sat young people in their twenties, undoubtedly friends of Peter's. I spotted some of our Fair Oaks Lane neighbors who still lived on that quiet, private road along with the Thortons. "It will be nice to chat and catch up later on," I silently mused.

The man at the organ, just an arm-length from me, played through the hymns he had chosen; beautiful, old hymns. The lyrics resounded in my head, reminding me of so many truths. I felt sad that so many of the younger folks, in all probability, had little knowledge of the truth in song. I wished that all could soak in the richness of those hymns beyond the melody and harmony of the notes.

Gary sat on my left, Seth beside me on my right and Claire beside him. As we waited for the family to enter the sanctuary, Seth's sadness leaked out and ran down his cheeks. I handed him a tissue, keeping one for myself while wishing I had worn waterproof mascara. I rubbed his back to console, thankful  my son was alive and by my side. The wound of death was fresh. Peter had stopped by to visit with Seth just a few days prior. I imagined their conversation was looping through his mind. Neither could have imagined their next visit would be so one-sided.

Death is brutal. There is no escaping that truth. Whether it was an "expected" death after a long illness or a sudden loss of life, death delivers a viscous, painful sting. The human emotions and sense of loss should never be belittled. They are real and powerful. For years after my father died, I still imagined he might walk through the door when visiting my mother. There were things I wanted to tell him, only to remember I couldn't. Perhaps that's why I always direct my feet toward the cemetery on my first run back in my home town. I know he's not there but still, I "talk" with him as I stand next to the grave marker that reads "Only a sinner saved by grace." (From "The Legacy")

Despite the angst, the loneliness, the deep ache that penetrates every cell in the body, we must chose to trust when we cannot see. We must run to the hiding place in the shadow of the Almighty's wing. God is faithful.


(Credit: Hiding Place, Selah.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Walking the thin line

I was in the Dollar Store two days before Christmas, picking up last minute this and thats. I'm still trying to figure out why the store is named as it is. It's an impossible feat to spend one lonely dollar. My bill is always much higher. But apparently, others find the same to be true. The lady in front of me came up $1.83 short of her $36 purchase. She laughed at not having quite enough cash, pulling out some plastic instead. The cashier, however, refused the card. Rather, she reached into her pocket and pulled out the required shortfall, dropping it in the register's drawer. My fellow shopper's jaw flapped open at the unexpected generosity of the cashier. She looked at me to verify what had just happened. When I confirmed--and applauded--the cashier's kind actions, the customer returned the credit card to her wallet and walked toward the door, an obvious bounce in her Christmas cheer  lightened steps.

What a wonderful example of a Christmas blessing: unexpected, kind, generous goodwill to a stranger. I wonder if the cashier was living out her faith in a very practical way. Or, was this lovely deed performed out of a general sense of kindness found in many who do not bear the name of Christ? Should we who are Christ-followers be distinctly different from those who are not? Should our actions and conversation be held to a higher standard?

For days my brain churned at the questions, particularly in light of a recent string of Facebook comments. A few weeks ago, the news media reacted strongly to comments made by Phil Robertson, the cornerstone of the wildly popular Duck Dynasty clan. Robertson, a devout Christian who happens to be a football-star-turned savvy businessman who turned a passion for hunting into a multi-million dollar empire) was interviewed by Drew Magary. Magary, an author writing for GQ magazine, spent a day with Robertson, asking pointed questions amidst shooting bows, guns, and touring around the back woods of Louisiana. Among many things, Magary says, "I am comfortable here in these woods with Phil and his small cache of deadly weaponry. He is welcoming and gracious."

The author and Robertson live and think in two different worlds. Magary is a self-proclaimed city boy who reveals a surprising magnetic draw to the simple kind of life Robertson lives despite his celebrity. His language choices include expletives that are foreign to Robertson's vocabulary. Shooting the evening meal is a novel idea. And Robertson's wicked, sinful past in contrast to his post-conversion life's goal of proclaiming the Gospel seems to be somewhat of an anomaly to the author. So, it's not surprising that questions are asked that reveal Phil's not-so-politically correct views on morality.

It is not my intent to repeat the "He said, then he said's" of the article. (You can read the entire article here.) Rather, I'd like to think about a Christian's responsibility to speak truth in the context of a social audience. Now, there is no question that Phil believes that homosexuality is wrong. But heterosexual sex outside of marriage, as well as other acts such as bestiality, are also viewed as immoral based on many Biblical statements. As a fellow Christian who holds the same views, I know where he is coming from and understand his comments.

Should we be surprised that the media stoned Phil for his comments, boldly claiming him to be a hate-filled homophobic white racist despite his statement that "We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later. . . "?  (Phil was quoted about his personal experiences of working side-by-side in the fields with blacks, noting they were happy and content in the pre-entitlement and welfare era. Some viewed that as racist.)

Society as a whole calls for tolerance; tolerance of anyone and anything. The idea is that everyone has a right to decide what is acceptable for them. There are no absolutes. Everything is relative. I accept you. You accept me. Live and let live. However, should a person who believes in the authority of Scripture vocalize a view that runs contrary to the cultural norm, they are more times than not
labeled as a hater. In other words, tolerance is seldom extended to anyone who espouses a view different from the current social mores and ethos.

Since posting something on Facebook in support of the Robertsons, I have had a week or so to contemplate the issues. There were a number of supporters in the comments section of my post. However, there was one friend who took great issue with the Robertsons, Phil in particular. He responded with accusations of unkindness, hatred and bigotry, suggesting that Robertson's positive childhood experiences of working side-by-side with black Americans was "kinda ridiculous," inferring the Louisiana native was whacked for saying those particular blacks were happy. This friend's numerous comments drew the responses of some of my other friends. For the most part, I bowed out of the conversation, a prevailing pit of discomfort growing inside. Understanding that the printed word can often be misinterpreted, it still seemed to me that he had latched onto this bone and was not going to let it go. The tone of his posts came across as anything but kind, gracious and accepting, qualities he required of Robertson. A week later, in a totally unrelated post (that was itself accusatory and perhaps even a bit inflammatory), he continued to display a lack of tolerance for those who think differently by making an unsolicited and negative swipe at the Duck Dynasty folks.

I will admit that it annoys me to be spanked for holding non-negotiable values based on Scripture. It irks me that the non-Christian is allowed to say whatever he or she wants, using speech that is often vile and rude, while the Christian is expected to remain silent or risk being colored by secularists as stupid, ignorant, backward, bigots, and homophobes. I hate it when disagreement is automatically pegged as hate speech, though no actions confirm that assumption. But let's remind ourselves of something. As Christians, we must still be gracious because unregenerate man has no ability to understand spiritual things. Now, if you are a non-Christian reading this, that last statement is not disparaging. Rather, it is a statement of biblical principle: Without the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit, natural man cannot truely make sense of the spiritual. (See 1 Cor.1:18-251 Cor 2:6-16)

I fully understand that Christians will be misunderstood and I must learn to accept that. I know it will never be popular to take a stand. It's been that way for thousands of years and will likely continue. Read the New Testament. Take note of example after example of Christian persecution. Did those early believers, imperfect as they were, deserve to be burned alive, their flaming bodies serving as human torches to light Nero's gardens? Did Paul deserve to be stoned numerous times for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ? Did the enslaved Christians warrant the wrath of the master? No. But let's not forget that out of hardship comes strength. Out of mistreatment comes an opportunity to display grace and love.

Do we need to scream Christ in order to be heard? I don't think so. Paul, writing to the church at Colossae in ancient Phrygia (Western Turkey) while under house arrest in Rome, addressed the congregation of Jews (and some Gentiles). At the time, Christianity under the Roman Empire was regarded as an illegal sect. This often put the Christians in conflict with the government's prescribed customs and mores. (Sound familiar?) Failure to conform to the law led to a death sentence. But despite the challenges of living in such a society, Paul instructs them. "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:2-6).

Wise in actions. Grasp opportunities. Gracious speech. Why? So that doors remain open to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

None of us are perfect. Too often we open mouth, insert foot. Speak too quickly. Speak too loudly. But it's not for lack of biblical instruction. The first dozen verses of James 3 describes the issue we have with an untamed tongue. Like a bit in a horse's mouth, a rudder on a large ship, and a spark that ignites a forest fire, we are warned of the damage that little wagging tongue can do. We are wise to think before we speak.

Timothy, a first century Believer was encouraged to "set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul writes to the Philippians church: "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ" (KJV, Philippians 4:12a).

But is there a time to boldly speak truth? Apparently so. Consider the young church at Ephesus. They lived within a very pagan society that made it difficult, at times, to stay the course. The apostle Paul understood this. Since it is impossible to make it more clear, read what he had to say in Ephesians 4:17-29.

"So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. (Author's note: Sounds like a contemporary problem.)

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin.’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Please note that we are to speak the truth in love with the intention of edification and restoration. Though these directives are addressed to believers and their interactions with each other, the principle can probably be applied to the believer/non-believer relationship as well.

Consider the interaction of Jesus with the Samaritan women. The encounter described in John 4 takes place at a well in Samaria where no self-respecting Jew would dare travel. No self-respecting Jew, that is, except for Jesus. He intentionally engages the woman in conversation. This "half-breed" was flabbergasted  that a Jew would speak to her. But Jesus, stopping at the ancient well of Jacob, is tired and thirsty. He asks her to draw him a drink of water. "Me? You talking to me? Why?!?" (paraphrased)

He says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:13). She is intrigued and asks the Lord for that kind of water. What happens next in this conversation with the dumbfounded women? He asks her to go fetch her husband. He was setting up a pointed yet profitable conversation.

"I have no husband," she offers.

"You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true" (verses 17, 18).

Busted. That woman's skin had to be crawling by now. How did he know? Regardless, she was so impacted by the encounter that she ran back to the city and returned with a throng of people. Many believed, including the women. In this one-on-one situation, the truth of Jesus himself overrode any need to beat the truth into her. Her sin was revealed quietly and effectively. She responded to the Divine.

And what about the adulterous women in John 8? The Pharisees, a bunch of self-righteous religious do-gooders caught a women in the act. Jesus was nearby, and wanting to trap him, they paraded the woman in front of him, pleased with themselves for discovering this human trophy of sin. "The law of Moses says she must be stoned. What do you say?" (Paraphrased.)

The Master's response? "But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When 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.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground" (John 8: 6-8).

One by one, we are told, the accusers slink away until only the woman and Jesus remain. Breaking what I'm sure was a very awkward silence, he looks her in the eye and asks, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

Her response? "No one, sir."

Was Jesus argumentative with the Pharisees? Do you think Jesus lectured the woman? Did he speak to her with disdain? No. While he did not ignore the sin, he simply spoke the truth in love. "Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Though we are not told the outcome, my bet is on the woman obeying the Master.

So what's the bottom line? How and when should sin be confronted? How do we speak truth in love? Jesus confronted sin at every turn, but not by yelling and screaming. Even so, was he, the sinless perfect one, misunderstood and condemned? Absolutely. All the time. In fact, he was misunderstood and accused all the way to the cross. 

We walk a thin line between conveying truth as Christ did and beating people with truth (as he did not). It should come as no surprise that defending truth, even in a calm and gentle way, will not be understood by all. Still, we should not be silent. Christ was not. In fact, we are called to "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). Though we will inevitably fail from time to time, our goal must be to walk that line with all wisdom and prudence, being careful to uphold the testimony of Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12).

All Scripture, unless so noted, was quoted from The New International Version, found at