Last time, I suggested that in John 8:2-11 there is a pattern for dealing with people whose practices don’t square with God’s design. In brief:
- Don’t accuse or belittle.
- Protect others from harm.
- Refuse to judge, remembering that I, too, have weaknesses.
- Don’t condemn.
- Recognize and reject sin.
I find the fifth one particularly interesting.
I notice that Yeshua did not tell her to, “go and be more careful next time.” It would appear the Rabbi, for all of his apparent tolerance, regarded her behavior as sin in need of repentance. What this woman did with her new life (for she had been a “dead woman walking”) I cannot tell. I could presume she went away so shaken as to throw off her former life and become a new woman—sin no more. But I don’t know that. Maybe she continued her lifestyle only more carefully.
Come and Sin No More?
Here’s another thought. What if Yeshua had seen in her the same potential he had seen in a certain rich young ruler? What if the Rabbi had invited her to forsake all and follow him? I have to assume he would have said, “Come and sin no more.” One thing of which I’m certain, he would not have said, “Come! No strings attached. No sacrifices. No big changes. Just come. My disciples choose their own path. I expect nothing of them but love.”
He would not have said that.
My conclusion has to be that there are things Yeshua knew as sin (John 5:14, Luke 5:32; 13:3; Luke 15). He would have cautioned the adulterous woman just as he cautions me and anyone else who wants to follow him. He instructs me to lay aside my old life of sin. I can’t do as I please. John, the Apostle describes how that plays out: “My children, I am writing this so that you won’t sin. But if you do sin, Jesus Christ always does the right thing, and he will speak to the Father for us. Christ is the sacrifice that takes away our sins and the sins of all the world’s people” (1 John 2:1-2 CEV).
In the end, followers of The Way are called on to allow the Spirit to change their lives and bring them into conformity with the way of Yeshua. I may want to transport my personal freedom and inclinations onto my life in Christ, but in the end, that’s just the 21st century American me trying to superimpose my values onto the Kingdom. It doesn’t work that way.
* John 8:2-11 is probably not a part of the original gospel. The description of an authentic event may have been added later to John’s gospel in what seemed like an appropriate place. Some scholars speculate that the account may have originated with Luke, and in some manuscripts it is included in the gospel of Luke.