Let me tell you a story about a woman who had a face-to-face with death around two thousand years ago.
One day, early in the morning, Jesus was teaching in the temple and all the people came to him as he started teaching them. Then, the scribes and the Pharisees brought to him a woman that was caught in adultery, in order to test him. You see, in their Law Moses had commanded them to stone such a woman. So they wanted to see what Jesus would say about it because they wanted to find a charge to bring it against him. Faced with this dilemna, Jesus bent down and started writing with his finger on the ground — maybe to buy himself some time to think of a proper answer. It was a tricky one. If he were to tell them not to stone her, he would be breaking the Law and the Pharisees and scribes would finally have ground to arrest him; and if he were to tell them to stone her, the woman would die and he would be beating the purpose for which he came to begin with, which is to save people like her. When they kept asking him, he finally got up and told them, “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone at her”, then bent down and went back to writing on the ground. After that, the most amazing thing happened. One by one, starting with the older ones, they started walking away until it was just him and the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and asked her, “Where are they? Is no one condemning you?” To this she answered, “There’s no one, Lord.” Then he said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, live your life.” And the woman, empowered, went back to her former life, proudly silencing anyone who dared judge her. “If Jesus didn’t judge me, who are you to judge me?” she would say, and she would cite what would soon become Jesus’ most famous quote, “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone!”
I’m sure if you’ve ever read this story in John 8, you would smell something fishy about my narration of this account. Well, if you’re still wondering, I’ve completely changed the ending. But there’s a reason why I did that.
Going around the internet lately, I often come across articles written (mostly) by well-intentioned Christians who wish to reconcile the world with Christianity. What these people often do is stop at the point where Jesus didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery without going further to continue what he said to her afterwards and thus end up portraying Jesus as a passive tolerant of sin who didn’t go around judging people, to show what a modern-day Christian should look like. Unsurprisingly, these articles get picked up by well known secular websites that champion freedom of choice under the big umbrella of diversity within secularism.
While it is true that Christians should reflect the image of Jesus in that he did not condemn the woman or anyone else for that matter and he did frequent people who were caught up in sin, thus earning him the title “friend of sinners”, Jesus did in fact say something to that woman that has completely gone unnoticed by many who don’t think twice before raising the judgment flag at the slightest cause of discomfort.
So to give you the real version of the story, right after Jesus told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you”, he said something to her that in modern-day context would definitely not pass. He told her, “Go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11).
Whoa… Hold your horses. What was that Jesus? Did you actually tell the woman not to sin anymore? But I thought you showed approval of her lifestyle by not condemning her… Oh, you didn’t?
As I examine closer people who hide nowadays behind the “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone” barrel, it seems to me they completely overlook the fact that despite having showed her mercy and compassion, Jesus didn’t fail to tell the woman — in that same sentence — to stop doing what she was doing, as if making a firm and clear statement that showing her love does not equate to approving of her lifestyle.
Things today however appear to be different. It looks as though people are making the innuendo that God approves of their sinful lifestyles because Jesus defended the woman from being stoned. It is also expected that Christians follow lead or else they wouldn’t be showing love — the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated to the woman caught in adultery. This couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Jesus never once showed people that he was okay with their sin. In another instance after having healed a disabled man by the pool in John 5, Jesus told the man not to sin anymore so that his last state wouldn’t become worse than his first.
It is true that Jesus ate with sinners, but everyone that encountered him had a drastic change of direction, not because he didn’t have a problem with their sin, but because he showed them mercy and associated with them despite their sin.
That was the difference between Jesus and the Pharisees back then. The Pharisees separated themselves from the rest of the people because they esteemed themselves better than everybody else. Their self-righteousness didn’t allow them to “defile” themselves with sinners, while it was their job from the beginning to be mediators between people and God.
Jesus came to show people what the Pharisees could never show, that God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you despite your sin. But that should never amount to believing that God approves of your sin.
Christians should be aware that people who favour Jesus as a lax character, aren’t doing this because they are seeking mercy but because they want to be comfortable with their sin. It is a comforting thought indeed that one can lead the lifestyle they want with no retribution on the horizon line.
When we project Jesus as someone who gives thumbs up to sinners and buys another round of beers to people who are already drunk, because “hey, no one’s perfect”, we aren’t in fact causing people to come to Jesus. Let me tell you that no one is repenting because they think that God is okay with how they’re living their lives.
More so, this false image of Jesus is being used by people who have absolutely no intention of coming out of the darkness, in order to push their own agendas.
Hence my question to my well-intentioned brothers and sisters in Christ who are trying to reconcile the world with the true image of Christianity.
You mean to tell me that Jesus paid the highest price on the cross — the greatest display of unmerited love known to mankind — so that people could go on with their sin and we would join in their struggle to make it a right for them? Really? Is that what Christ died for?
Jesus didn’t die for humanism, secularism or any other philosophy or agenda we’re unknowingly fighting for. Jesus died for a repentant humanity. His final words for us before he went up to heaven were to go proclaim the gospel and make disciples of the whole world teaching them to observe all that he commanded.
The gospel is not that people can now go on living as they were in the past because Christ died for their sins. The gospel is that people have been forgiven of their sins because of the great act of mercy demonstrated on the cross and have thus been reconciled with God and moved from death to life to walk from now on in the new self and put to death the deeds of the old self. Mercy should always lead people to repentance. Always.
Let us show love and compassion to people by not condemning them for the lifestyles they are leading but let us also not shy away from naming things by their names, just as Jesus did. In our attempt to reconcile people with God, let us also stay true to our agenda — a repentant humanity.