Forgiveness…and the Repetition of Sin

 

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:7-11

 

I try not to exaggerate much when I communicate. I grew up in an era when many preachers were given to hyperbole and it just rubbed me the wrong way. Because of this, I take great care with my words, almost to the point of hesitation. With these thoughts in mind, I’m going to make an extreme statement: the greatest blessing of the Christian life is forgiveness of sin through the work of Christ on the cross.

In light of this forgiveness, I love the above account concerning the woman caught in adultery. I love it because it demonstrates two groups of sinners before the sinless One. Certainly the woman was guilty. Perhaps she was trapped, but she was certainly an adulteress. The accusers, however, were guilty of another kind of sin. Their sin was a self-righteousness that revealed hypocrisy and was exposed by a hatred of the Lord Jesus.

The world loves this account too. I often hear, in defense of some indefensible sin, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” In their minds, those who stand for righteousness are the moral equivalents of these Pharisees. The thrust: no one should make any kind of moral judgment.

The reality of this story is vastly different, though. It doesn’t picture Jesus excusing sin. (As if!) It demonstrates Jesus forgiving sin. (He also reveals sin in the accusers.) And, not only does Jesus forgive the woman, He also offers forgiveness to the accusers. When confronted with their own sin (perhaps depicted in Jesus’ writing on the ground), they had the opportunity to receive forgiveness as well.

Jesus’ final instructions to the woman are as important to the scene as the rest: “Go, and from now on sin no more.” Live uprightly. Follow Christ. Don’t sleep around. As far as we know, the woman did just that. The scribes and Pharisees, however, continued to plot. They continued to accuse. They continued in their hypocrisy. In this narrative, both the woman and the Pharisees were confronted with their own sin. The woman seems to be the only one that received forgiveness for that sin.

In every situation we face as Christians, we are confronted with our own sin as well. Sometimes it’s out in the open like the woman’s, and sometimes it’s concealed like the Pharisees’. Like both groups, Jesus stands offering us forgiveness for both kinds of sin through His death, burial, and resurrection. Will we be like the woman – forgiven? Or will we be like the Pharisees – self-righteous and unforgiven? We can be in the right, and still wrong.

Go and sin no more.
Pastor Jim