STRENGTH FOR THE WEEK
“Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.'” – John 8:11
It is not enough to hate sin. Everyone hates sin at some point for some reason, but while religion teaches us that hating and avoiding sin is all that matters, Jesus shows us that what you hate sin for matters.
A woman was caught in adultery, and the religious leaders of the day dragged her through the streets and threw her in front of Jesus, citing the part of God’s law that stipulated that she should be stoned to death. They conveniently left out the fact that that law, in Deuteronomy 22:22 said that “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die.” Yet here they were, claiming they had caught the woman in the very act of adultery, but somehow the man they found her doing this with was nowhere to be seen. They also conveniently left out the fact that God gave them these laws for use in regulating immorality as a free people and nation under the direct rule of God, a rule they had lost through their sins so that they were now a conquered people under the rule of pagan kings. Yet here they were, pretending that they were a free people under the rule of God’s law, when the Roman Empire they were occupied by was a daily reminder that the whole lot of them as a people were neither free nor under the rule of God’s law.
Everybody in this story hated the sin, but not for the same reason as Jesus hated it. The man she was sleeping with, the hidden sinner, hated his sin, which is why he hides it. We hide sin because we hate it and know deep down that it is not something we are proud of or would want the world to know about us. But we hate it because it destroys our identity within our community. Instead of the freedom of having one identity, being the same person in public as we are in private, secret and hidden sin forces us to have multiple identities and forces us to keep the dirty ones away from people we love. Similarly, the woman hated her sin, but like all of us when we are caught and exposed, she would have hated her sin because it destroyed her privileges within the community, such as the privilege of having a good reputation. Then there was the Pharisees, with stones in their hands ready to kill her. They hated the sin because it destroyed their control of the community. They are an example of people who love righteousness because it gives them power to control and own others, and when those people fall short, it makes them feel diminished and fills them with anger.
Jesus also hated the sin. But he hated it because it was destroying the people he loved, which is why he is the only one in the story extending grace and mercy to the woman so that she can be freed from her sin. Her lover wanted to benefit from her sin, she wanted to benefit from his, and the mob wanted her punished for both, but Jesus wanted her freed from her sin, and only mercy and grace could do that. So when you see people in society whose sins have been exposed, remember that everyone hates sin, but not in the same way as Jesus, and so taking a stand against sin is not enough. You have to examine yourself to see if your stand against sin is like that of the Pharisee who wants to punish or that of the Christ who wants to rescue. You have to examine yourself to see if your stand is really against sin like Jesus was or only against a certain class of people whose sins you like to treat as worse than others. Taking a stand against sin is not enough, for it matters where and how you take such a stand and whether you do so without with no respect to persons. And if the sin is yours, then you have two options: you can make the mistake of using your sin as an excuse to keep away from Jesus, or you can use your sin as the reason to come to Jesus to give it to him so that you can go back and leave it for him.