John 8: Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” 6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. 9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11 “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
In this Scripture we see an image of loving our neighbor as ourselves. That’s what Jesus was doing. He forgave the repentant woman because of His deity, but in love He also instructed the woman to stay away from her sin. Don’t do it! Stay away or you will be right back in the same boat again… sinful before a holy God. The key to this story is not about the sin that the woman was involved in, even though it was great. The key is that Jesus gave her another chance. She was repentant for what she had done and Jesus saw that clearly in her heart. Jesus chose to forgive her but instructing her to leave that sin behind her. Does that seem fair? Is Jesus just wasting His time? No, He saw in her the same thing that he sees in you and I; hearts wanting to stop sinning but struggling with the temptation of our flesh. It’s one thing to say we are going to never become involved in a sinful behavior again, but it is a completely different thing to put that into practice.
We all have a problem with the actual application of our desire to stop sinning. We have a desire to do good and to follow that which is deemed right, but who gets to choose what is right or wrong? Who is the authority on right, wrong, acceptable and that which is unacceptable? Hopefully in your life it is God! If “we” are the authority then that becomes selfish idolatry. Who are we that we can judge what is right or wrong, especially when our Creator has offered His definition to us through the Holy Scriptures? Only He who is perfect can give an accurate account of that which is unholy and imperfect. (Don’t like that statement … get over it!)
Sin is not just sexual. Sin comes in many different formats. Sinful behavior can be something that we are doing or something that we should have done. It can be in the attitude we display to others or simply in the attitude of our hearts. Jesus saw the struggle in this woman’s life; sexual sin, a culture that made her a second-class citizen with very little security. But Jesus responded to this lost sheep in a loving nurturing way as opposed to the way the religious leaders of the day would. The religious leaders didn’t care about the woman; they just wanted to use her for their own benefit. In fact, they were willing to let this woman die under the Law just to make their point. But Jesus exposed their attitudes and hypocrisy. Jesus was in effect demonstrating the basis of the Law; to love your neighbor as yourself. This demonstration by Jesus was as shocking as it was counter-cultural. “Really … this woman was guilty!” “Let her suffer the consequences!” If Jesus had supported the actions of the religious leaders that day all hope would have been lost for you and me. If judgement was to be quick, harsh and without mercy in regards to sin, we would have nothing to look forward to except pain, suffering and loss. But instead Jesus showed mercy, grace and judgement.
“Go and sin no more.” These are some of the most wonderful words I have ever heard and read! Stop at this moment, put this down, and give God praise for His mercy and grace in your life! Amen!