Let’s look at some more red letters today:
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.“
When Jesus said to the woman in the above verses “Go and sin no more” what did he mean? When he said “neither do I condemn you” he was forgiving her past sins. He did that a lot so that was expected. But what about the next phrase? What did he mean? What it just a suggestion to the woman that he knew she couldn’t keep. Was he mocking her? Not unexpectedly I tend to take his words literally. He meant for the woman to quit sinning and therefore lead a moral life (whatever that is).
I know that St. Paul said we are not capable of “sinning no more” but I choose to believe that Jesus thought otherwise. If he didn’t then his words above are without meaning.There are many Christians, who like St. Paul, who believe that stopping sinning is literally impossible no matter what Jesus commanded her to do. The ones who say this are constantly harping that we are all utterly miserable sinners and can do nothing but sin no matter who tells us to do otherwise. They think that everything comes from God and he doesn’t expect anything from us except total repentance. Therefore, they say, these words of Jesus were rhetorical at best.
I believe that when the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts we are expected to stop sinning as Jesus told the woman. Does that mean we are sinless from the time the Holy Spirit comes to us? Absolutely not! Yes our selfish nature at its very core is more inclined to sin than not. But with the power of Jesus, via the Holy Spirit, we more easily recognize our sins and make every attempt to lead a more righteous life. That is even if it is not possible for us to completely stop sinning we should attempt to sin less tomorrow than we did today. We should do what Jesus says!
As a closing note I have always wondered what Jesus wrote in the sand in the above verses? Too bad the apostle John didn’t tell us. 🙂
2 thoughts on “Go and sin no more…”
Don’t you have to consider the possibility that these are not the words of John or Jesus, since the oldest known manuscripts don’t include this story?
As to the theology, everything turns on what “sin” means. According to the major traditions, virtually everything is a sin. A pastor in my former denomination (Lutheran) was recently quoted as saying that if you have as little as one dollar in your bank account, you’re not loving your neighbor as yourself. If so, “go and sin no more” is clearly impossible. But if sin is defined as “acts which the preachers of the Bible clearly condemned,” far fewer things are sinful. Indeed, we don’t need to “attempt to sin less tomorrow,” because by genuine biblical standards most of us aren’t sinning at all today.
Watchman Nee, Chinese missionary, wrote some incredible thoughts on the sin problem. He suggested that we, as the fallen creation, cannot truly see our sin to repent of. We should pray and ask God to shine His light into our hearts and minds and show us our shortcomings. So, we stay in close relationship with God through prayer and ask Him to change us to be more like Him. All this negative focus on ourselves and mumbling institutionally created formula’s is a waste of time. We’ll never see ourselves as we truly are. Only God can search our hearts and know what we need.