Friday, May 11, 2012

go and sin no more

The story of the woman caught in adultery is amazing at many levels, from the trap the teachers of the law and Pharisees were trying to set to Jesus' way of exposing them:
At dawn Jesus 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. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
John 8:1-11 , NIV
But today, instead of seeing how life-giving this encounter is (literally and spirit-ually for the woman), some Christians have taken the phrase "go and sin no more" as the new golden rule. This is how it works: they identify people as sinners, and they apply the rule.

But Jesus said this once to one person, in a passage which is not found in the earliest manuscripts.  As someone named candeux said in a blog comment, "For one thing, we rarely read of Jesus calling individuals to repentance. In the case of prostitutes, I wonder if he recognized that these women were not choosing to be prostitutes because they were sex-starved but because they were forced into it for economic reasons (probably because they were unsuitable for marriage for one reason or another) and thus were in need of love and care more than they were in need of repentance." (comment source)

He saw, and sees, each person for who they are and where they are at. But many churches seem to have trouble with that, and I wonder if Jesus today might use the phrase one more time, addressing the church and its actions and attitudes toward lgbt people:

May 25th postscript: I also recommend checking out Richard Beck's post with accompanying comments on the topic of "Go and sin no more."

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