I saw this just the other day on a friend's blog. She had posted about generous spaciousness and the invitation to rest, and one of the comments from a reader went as follows:
"Jesus, it is well known, had dinner with the wrong kind of people, touched the wrong kind of people, had conversation with the wrong kind of people, went to the wrong places, triggered and exposed social taboos, broke dividing walls, and announced a new kind of level playing field."
And then He told them to "go and sin no more".
July 15, 2012 9:10 PM source
Perhaps someone should have told Jesus to "go and sin no more," considering he was associating with the wrong people....
Let's unpack this a bit.
First, the reader repeatedly refers to "the wrong kind of people" without explanation or quotation marks. Consider the difference between the following two sentences:
- Jesus had dinner with the wrong kind of people. Generally speaking, unless someone says more to qualify this, it means that they believe that these were indeed the wrong kind of people and perhaps even that Jesus should not have been having dinner with them at all. Think of Simon the Pharisee seeing the woman who was wiping Jesus' feet with her hair and perfume, who then said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:36-50 NIV).
- Jesus had dinner with the "wrong kind" of people. The quotation marks indicate that while some think of these people as the wrong kind of people, the writer himself does not think so.
And then we have the reader's statement that Jesus "told them to 'go and sin no more'." Biblically, we have only the account of the woman caught in adultery where Jesus says "go and sin no more." So to say "He told them" (emphasis added) is simply not correct. It takes personal bias and applies it to Jesus.
While I do not know the Steven who posted the comment, I would guess that most likely, he himself feels that these were the wrong kind of people for Jesus to be spending time with, and that perhaps exposing social taboos and breaking down dividing walls is not such a great idea.
A standard phrase like "go and sin no more" is pretty handy. I simply label someone as a sinner (based on the simple evaluation: are they like me, or not?) and then I tell them to go and sin no more. Black and white. No nuances. No consideration that perhaps we have different ways of understanding something, or different approaches.
But labelling someone and giving them a pat answer is not grace, it's not love, it's not compassion, and it's not what Jesus did.
Perhaps "go and sin no more" is one of those phrases that we should give up... forever.