A Sinner Before Jesus
The church of 2018 claims to face more and more problems with a culture that changes faster and faster. But the eternal word of God—God Himself—is unchanging and ever-true (Psalm 118:89). Our culture is changing frequently but that doesn't mean that the truths of the Bible cannot apply to our world. The apostles and early Christians took on the challenges of a sinful culture with love and truth from the Word of God, and we can and should do the same today. In John 8:1-11 we see how Jesus handled having a sinner brought before him:
"As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. 'Teacher,' they said to Jesus, 'this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?' They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, 'All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!' Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, 'Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?'
'No, Lord,' she said.
And Jesus said, 'Neither do I. Go and sin no more.'"
There are three things Jesus did here that we can learn from and that can help us as we navigate this fallen world filled with lost souls.
1. Jesus mades sure the woman knew she was not condemned.
The first and most obvious thing Jesus did was point out the accusers' hypocrisy. The leaders wanted to stone the woman for her sin, but not a single one of them had lived a sinless life.
"All have sinned and fallen short of God's glorious standards." (Romans 3:23)
We cannot condemn people for their sins because we are sinners too. The only one with the power to condemn is God—and God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, did not condemn the woman.
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:17)
If Jesus did not condemn the sinner, nor should we. We need to share these verses with people so they know they are not condemned by us. The church and Christians carry a reputation of being judgmental and non-accepting of sinners, but this shouldn't be so! We need to tell the world that we are all sinners and it is not for us to condemn; our actions on this matter will certainly speak more than words.
2. Jesus told the woman to leave her life of sin.
He does not condemn her, but he does not accept her sin. He told her to stop living her sinful lifestyle. This is what we miss a lot in today's world. We are not bold enough to tell someone to leave their life of sin. The church can be so concerned with trying to not offend people that it behaves as if people will realize they need to give up their sin on their own—that if they listen to enough sermons and come to church enough times, they'll get it. That's not Jesus' example and it's not how Paul instructed the church either.
"I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship." (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)
I'm not sure Paul would be a popular pastor today with suggestions like that—more a reflection of the church of today, not Paul. Paul's attitude is not to ignore the sin or to give the man more time to figure out that what he is doing is wrong. Paul says that this person should be removed from the fellowship. This is someone in the church who is actively and defiantly living in sin. Paul's suggestion is made in love. It's not loving to accept sin on the grounds of not being offensive. If you accept the sinful lifestyle and there's never a change, then you have groomed the person for eternal damnation. There's no love in that. Paul explains in verse 5.
"Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns." (1 Corinthians 5:5)
Each of us needs to realize that we can't claim Jesus Christ and a sinful lifestyle. If the person is thrown out to Satan, given over to the sinful life they are pursuing, they will realize that they can't have it both ways. Continuing to accept the sin sends the message that they can be a Christ follower and lead a sinful lifestyle at the same time—and that's just not true! Speaking from experience, Paul's words are very true; sometimes being handed over to the sin you so love is the best way to hit rock bottom—and the rock you land on is Jesus Christ. We all have to make this choice sooner or later: Jesus Christ or your sin.
3. In doing all of this, Jesus showed the woman she was loved.
It is not loving to allow someone to go down a wrong path. Think of this literally. If you were hiking through the woods with someone and they had their own map and were going down all the wrong paths, would you stay silent and let them get more and more lost because you don't want to offend them by saying, "You know, I've been down all those paths before and they won't lead us out of here. There's a better and easier way out of here. Let me show you." Is that so offensive? Is that so hard to say? This is exactly what we are doing when we don't say to people, "Leave your life of sin." When we stay silent because we are afraid of offending someone we are only letting them get more and more lost and that's not loving. By shaming her accusers, telling the woman that He does not condemn her and that she needs to stop sinning, Jesus showed the woman that she was loved. May we show people they are loved in this same way. Let them know they are not condemned, that you have been down those paths before and they don't work out, and that their life of sin is not the way to go.
"'So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.'" (John 13:34-35)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.