Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” – John 8:10-11 (NRSV)
Tracing his finger on the ground, he changed everything. Stones in hand, they were armed for war against her. She was a pawn—as people on margins so often are—in a broader battle with Jesus.
Then, he stood and saw her. He saw her, not her accusations, not the surrounding fury. He saw her and he did not condemn her. Thanks be to God.
I have heard this passage read in church, stopping just there: “Just as Jesus didn’t condemn her, he doesn’t condemn you, either.” The Jesus of this teaching overlooks all wrongs.
Unfortunately, that’s Jesus-lite, not Jesus himself. The next line is crucial. “From now on do not sin again.” Acknowledging that Jesus has expectations for our behavior, that he wants us not to “sin again,” sounds like he is asking something too hard to pull off.
It is. He knows very well that she will sin, that the rest of us will sin, again. But that does not mean sin is good. Acknowledging this is key to our discipline and repentance. We examine our actions and inactions, asking God what to do. We turn back to God, because God does not condemn us … and as we do, we have to know that God does not delight in or accept our sin either. Ironically, this is good news. Because the effects of our sin are things like the war of stones, the hypocrisy of accusation, the bullying of the marginalized. Thank God Jesus says no to such things.
Which Jesus do you know? The one who shames accusers into silence? Or the one who gives the order not to sin? The One True God embodies both and so much more.
God, we turn and know. Help us to emerge washed and refreshed. Amen.