10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
This is a beautiful story of a woman caught in the act of adultery receiving no condemnation from Jesus.
But I think that this message of freedom from condemnation has turned into a precept of the church that ultimately brings more condemnation than we could have ever dreamed.
First of all, before I explain my statement above, let’s think about the time period here. Jesus had come; He was here on the earth working in His ministry. But He had not yet died on the cross. So, the Levitical and Rabbinical laws were still in effect.
When the men brought the woman to Jesus to gain agreement in stoning her, they already knew that they had full right to do so under the Law. Breaking any of the Law at any time brought about severe punishment. Remember, it was a law that was literally impossible to keep. Failure was a certainty.
Jesus was the only one at that time who had the power to forgive sins. We may never know what He wrote in the sand, but it was powerful enough for the men to drop their stones and walk away.
Then he turns to the woman and says that He does not condemn her. Wow, that is the love and forgiveness of our Jesus. Then He said, “Go and sin no more”.
We have used this story as one of the foundational pillars of the church. “You are forgiven, NOW go and sin no more.”
If you are a true believer and follower of Christ, I’ll just wager that you have struggled with this very thing. Not the forgiveness part, but the ‘sin no more’ part. Unfortunately when we DO sin again, we feel condemned because we were instructed to ‘sin no more’. It is a cycle that continually repeats itself.
Well, let’s just talk about this a little more.
Remember that when this situation happened EVERYONE was still under the law. It was a time when a sacrifice was still needed to temporarily cover your sin. God’s holiness cannot leave sin unpunished.
When Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more, He did desire that she sin no more. He did not want her to be condemned and therefore stoned to death. Because under the law, should she be caught committing adultery again, she would be put to death by stoning.
Do you think that she walked away from there and never committed any kind of sin again? Now keep in mind that sin was defined by the law and there were thousands of laws to be kept. No, I believe it was impossible for her to not sin again, but I do believe that she never committed adultery again.
What we have envisioned when reading this passage or hearing this word taught was the ideal that once we are forgiven, we are to go and never sin again. This has put a huge weight of condemnation on the body of Christ that was never meant to be there.
If all that needed to be done to eliminate sin was for Jesus to tell someone, go and sin no more, then there would have been no need for Him to have died on the cross. But He HAD to die on the cross, because we cannot eliminate sin from our lives by sheer will and a desire to not sin.
Jesus freed this woman from condemnation; He never meant to place a burden on her that she could not resolve, thus further condemning her.
17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Click to read in full context
Jesus was sent to free us from condemnation forever! He came so that when we DO sin, and we will, we will not be condemned.
As I mentioned above, God is a holy and pure God and must punish sin. But His desire was to have a people who were completely free from the punishment of that sin. Being free from condemnation, we can approach Him freely and in that freedom there is power to do that which He has called us to do.
So what was the answer to be? To provide the perfect sacrifice, once and for all, receiving the full punishment of all sins committed, past, present and future! When we sin, and we will, the punishment has already been administered. We can go free, knowing that we will not be condemned and punished.
Now some might say that this freedom will cause us to sin even more! But in fact the opposite is true. When we continually focus on sinning, or rather not sinning, it creates in us an even stronger desire to sin. We then feel condemned and it is a continual struggle that Jesus truly died to set us free from.
To bring this thought closer to home and make it real to you, what do you struggle with or consider to be sin in your life? Do you desire to lose weight and feel that your overeating is sin? Do you battle with constantly trying to ‘be good’? You work hard to do right, eat right, so that you will be right. But the end result is always the same fatigue and a feeling of failure. The more you focus on it, but harder it becomes to do what you feel is right. It is a cycle of self condemnation that must be broken.
You could replace that scenario above with a host of others such as gossip, alcoholism, lying, and on and on and on. The harder you try to do right, the less right you do.
BUT, there is good news! When we realize we really are truly free from the condemnation or punishment of sin, it does not create in us a desire to just go out and sin, but an overwhelming love for the Father who sent His only son Jesus. That type of pure love and acceptance give us the power (grace) to not sin. Not from our own power or effort, but from the grace that is continually flowing from Him through us.
His grace is sufficient. We can’t conjure it up. We can’t make it happen. But by clinging to the one who IS grace and focusing on Him, grace will automatically flow from Him through you. There is NOW no condemnation.
1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Click to read in full context
That is why Paul said in regards to his ‘thorn in the flesh’, His grace truly is sufficient. Sufficient to overpower any thorn without condemnation.
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Click to read in full context
So when you tell yourself to break free from your stronghold of sin, don’t tell yourself, I’ll just work harder and be stronger. Tell yourself, you are forgiven and not condemned. Feel the power of freedom and forgiveness and watch that stronghold melt away.