top of page

Freedom From Shame

The church doesn’t handle sex well. When it’s put in its rightful place, sex can be an incredible blessing. But the majority of churches either don’t talk about it, or talk about it in unhelpful ways.

Purity culture, a Christian movement in the 90’s and 00’s is an example of this.

Unfortunately, it’s now responsible for a generation (or two) who struggle to develop healthy adult sexual relations. Joshus Harris wrote a number of books while the movement was at its peak and later reflected on the harm it caused, with its overemphasis on sex and deemphasis on grace.

It involves strong repercussions for women caught in sexual sin, most of which revolve around shame. This is a space that the church (in most moments of history) has got it wrong.

So, how does Jesus respond to those who are caught in sexual sin? Let’s look at 2 women from the New Testament.

Open up your Bible and read John 4:5-26. Even if you’ve read it 1000 times, please stop and

read it, or the rest may not make sense.


So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 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.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”


We meet a Samaritan woman chatting with Jesus (a Jew), despite Samaritans and Jews being enemies. We know that this woman was a pariah based on the fact that she was drawing water alone, in the middle of the day. She was alone and it was too hot then, so we know straight up that things aren’t great for her. We discover she’s had 5 husbands and she’s now living with another man.

Most teaching on this passage assumes she is promiscuous, but John doesn’t say that. It could be that she was a widower. In first century culture, if you lost your husband, it was customary to marry your deceased husband’s brother. So that could have been what’s happened, we’re not sure. But by us reading this through modern, Western eyes, we could be feeding into her shame.

Now, let’s ask 3 questions of her story:

1. What does Jesus say?

He told her what the world knew about her and her living situation (v18), then every other time He spoke, He told her who HE is and what HE can give her! (v10, 13-14, 26)

2. What does Jesus NOT say?

“Girl, you’ve really stuffed things up here, haven’t you?” He doesn’t question her choices, or heap shame on her, or judge her.

3. What does Jesus do for her?

By focusing on who He is, He gives her a new identity. He redeems her, loves her, and gives her value. In an honour-shame culture, He restores her honour. She became the first female missionary to the Gentiles. (V28-29) A Samaritan! It was a miracle that she had the confidence to not only lift her eyes to the men in her town, but that they actually listened to her and came to meet Jesus! Jesus went above and beyond in giving her status among her community, as well as faith in Him.


but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

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

At 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. 10 Jesus 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.”


A women caught in adultery is used as a pawn in a religious game to trap Jesus. The religious leaders were prepared to stone her to death, but Jesus says to the crowd “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one the crowd disappeared and Jesus said (v10) that if they don’t condemn you, neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Now to our 3 questions:

1. What does Jesus say?

V7 is key and I’m paraphrasing, but only the one who doesn’t sin can judge. Meaning only the Holy God has the right to judge. Not you, and not me.

2. What does Jesus not say?

“You idiot! How stupid could you be? Did you seriously think you wouldn’t get caught?” He doesn’t even talk about the act at all!

3. What does Jesus do for her?

He gives her total freedom. He gives her life. Literally and spiritually. He saved her from being stoned to death. He gave her a hope and a future in Him.

These women carried unwarranted / unnecessary shame. Perhaps you do too, but you don’t need to anymore! God wants to give you hope, and to heal you. Like the nameless Samaritan woman, God finds us, reaches into our situation, and wants to refresh and restore us.

Romans 12:1 tells us to “Offer [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” Why? Because of God’s great mercy for us! Our motivation for sexual integrity always starts with our holy God. Romans 12:2 says it’s about your thoughts too; your motivation and your intentions. Christ has won the victory, but we still fight the battle. Our battle starts in our mind. We’re told to take captive every thought and make it obedient to God.

So, I encourage you to take whatever it is you need to take to the throne room of God. Let Him free and heal you from any shame you might be feeling.

Remember that we live within community. God gives us Himself, yes! But He also gives us His wisdom and perspective through others, and when you verbally share your story with a t rusted person it helps to break the shame cycle.

"Shame dies when stories are told in trusted places." Ann Voskamp.

Through the lens of the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus tells us who HE is, so that we know who WE are, in Him. Our identity is secure, in Him.

Through the lens of the woman caught in adultery, He tells us that only He is able to judge us. AND, by His GREAT mercy, He chooses to set us free.

So, let’s live as freed women – ones who choose to honour God with our sexuality, thoughts, and lives.


Bree Bond has a passion for writing and speaking, particularly about how to live a life of faith in response to God’s goodness. She works in Christian Education, is in the throes of completing a theological degree, and one day hopes to finish one of the books she’s started. Her favourite place is anywhere her husband and 2 sons are, which is usually with a soccer ball at the park, or enjoying God’s creation.


Featured Posts
Search By Category
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Pinterest Social Icon
bottom of page