Director of Christian Life Commission brings message of mercy

PLAINVIEW – “Mercy triumphs over judgement” as Jesus rewrites the stories of the wounded.

That was message Dr. Katie Frugé had March 8 for Wayland Baptist University students, faculty and staff attending a chapel service. As part of Wayland’s Rewritten series, Frugé used John 8:3-11as a backdrop to speak about how God has a narrative for each life that is “far more exciting than anything we can imagine.”

“We have plans about where we think God is going to take us, and God is like, ‘I’m going to write a different story and a different narrative,’” said Frugé, who serves as Director of the Center for Cultural Engagement and Director of the Christian Life Commission for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

John 8 is about Jesus “totally rewriting other people’s stories,” she said during the chapel service. Noting the passage about a woman caught in adultery is not included in early manuscripts, she said it still reveals “Jesus has a heart that rejects legalism and toxic fundamentalism.” Frugé added that is shows “Jesus has a heart that wants justice and mercy.”

“Jesus has a heart that sees the invisible in the margins, and He gives them a place at the center of the table,” she said in explaining why she chose the passage.

Frugé said the pharisees were trying to trap Jesus. “They put Jesus to the test to see how He would react because they knew Jesus and His disciples would challenge the cultural norms of the day. They needed it to be as explosive as possible to make a big splash. They picked their moment and picked their opportunity very carefully. They knew all the laws and went out of their way to pick adultery. … They picked it because there were certain issues, just like today, that will garner outrage and attention of all the people watching.”

The chapel speaker equated the scene to events today.

“We haven’t changed much, have we?” she asked. “If you use certain key words, you are going to get a lot of outrage from a lot of people. These are hot topic issue for the sake of the views, not the truth. … There are certain things that are going to provoke and get certain people to respond to you. They wanted to force a reaction in the most public way possible. They wanted everybody to be watching. Jesus was going to be forced to condone the death of this woman or be a false teacher.”

“This is what we call legalism,” Frugé said. “It places truth into an agenda. It sees people as a means or a barrier to ministry. It puts principle over people.”

She said there was no question about the woman’s guilt, but asked, “If they caught her in the act, where is the dude? It was never about correcting a wrong — adultery. It was about exploiting a vulnerable person in vulnerable situation in a vulnerable cultural setting and leveraging that to further their own ambitions and goals. That is what legalism does.”

“One of the saddest realities of the fallen world in which we live in is that I would imagine that something like this probably resonates with some of you,” she said. “You know what it’s like to be used, to be a pawn of someone else’s ambitions and goals. You know what it feels like to be uniquely targeted for vulnerabilities someone saw in you. If that is you, I want to encourage you. This is the story of how Jesus reacts. He rewrites her story in a way that brings love, comfort, and healing.”

Frugé called for those attending the service to look at how Jesus responds.

“They are causing a scene and He bends down. He physically removes Himself from the situation,” she said. “I don’t know what He is writing in the sand because that is not the point of what we are supposed to see here. It tells us that Jesus was not about playing these games. His doodling on the ground screams to everyone that He is not going to be sucked into the sensational and exploited nature of this entire scene. His next words are some of His most famous words — ‘Let He who is without sin cast the first stone.’”

Frugé said Jesus doesn’t dispute the woman was caught in adultery. “He doesn’t gloss over failures or flaws, but Jesus’ justice is never separated from His mercy. His words flipped the entire script. They came looking for justice and found themselves judged. From the oldest to the youngest, they just slowly walked away. Then, He tells her to go now and leave your life of sin.”

Frugé cited the response of Jesus as “the profound power of mercy.”

“We don’t speak a lot about mercy, but it is so powerful,” she said. “Mercy is the forgiveness you never asked for, but you are lavished with it. Mercy has the ability to cut into the human heart and transform it.”

Frugé said Jesus offers forgiveness and freedom. “Her story is not defined by the adultery she has been caught in, the exploitation she was victim to. … Now, she is free. She was not her worst moment. That’s the beauty of what Jesus does.”

 “I’m not my worst moment. You are not your worst moment,” she continued. “John 8 is about rewriting the story. The pharisees wanted to testify and bring a horrible charge against this woman, but Jesus wrote the story to where they found themselves charged instead. Jesus was placed in a trap and rewrote the story to trap those that exploited this woman and manipulated the narrative.”

 Describing the woman as “exploited and a pawn in someone else’s personal agenda,” Frugé said her story is beautifully rewritten.

“She was restored, healed and freed,” she said. “That’s the heart of Jesus. He isn’t glossing over the places where we are not our best selves, but He lavishes on us mercy and love. Mercy triumphs over judgement.”