Poet Carl Sandburg wrote of former US president Abraham Lincoln, “Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, . . . who holds in his heart and mind the paradox of terrible storm and peace unspeakable and perfect.” “Steel and velvet” described how Lincoln balanced the power of his office with concern for individuals longing for freedom.
Only one person in all history perfectly balanced strength and gentleness, power and compassion. That man is Jesus Christ. In John 8, when confronted by the religious leaders to condemn a guilty woman, Jesus displayed both steel and velvet. He showed steel by withstanding the demands of a bloodthirsty mob, instead turning their critical eyes upon themselves. He said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (v. 7). Then Jesus modeled the velvet of compassion by telling the woman, “Neither do I condemn you . . . . Go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 11).
Reflecting His “steel and velvet” in our own responses to others can reveal the Father’s work of conforming us to be like Jesus. We can show His heart to a world hungry for both the velvet of mercy and the steel of justice.
How does your response to the brokenness of this world compare to Christ’s balance of mercy and justice? Where do you need God’s help to enable you to show His compassion to others?
In the account in John 8:1–11, it’s interesting that the religious leaders bring only the woman caught in the act of adultery. Women were particularly drawn to Jesus and were more courageous in following Him than most of His disciples. Only John stayed with Jesus all the way to the cross, but Matthew tells us “many women were there” (27:55–56). Women weren’t drawn to Jesus because He was physically attractive (see Isaiah 53:2). They loved Him because He saw them as fully human. He treated them with the respect other men didn’t show them. Today’s story is one example of that, as Jesus protects the woman’s dignity as a human being.