February 7, 2013
In the eighth chapter of John is told the story of a women brought to Jesus who was “taken in the very act” of adultery. The Master, when asked whether she ought to be stoned, simply suggested that her accusers should examine themselves first. After they dispersed, each convicted by his own conscience, Jesus gently told the woman “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Jesus saw the woman as above reproach – that is, without shame or disgrace. Even though the evidence was clearly against her, and her accusers had every right to proceed with their attack, he was looking at something different. What did he see that they missed?
Growing up in Sunday School, I was taught to condemn the sin but love the sinner. That’s certainly an important first step but it doesn’t go as far as Jesus did in his assessment of the woman. What he told her to do next gives us a clue as to his viewpoint: he said, go and sin no more. He didn’t say “try not to sin” or “sin only a little bit.”
Did he give her an impossible task? If he had believed that she – and we and all – are inherently sinners, then yes. She would have been unable to obey his command. But Jesus knew what his Father knew: that man (both male and female) are created in His image and likeness, as it says in Genesis. (see chapter 1:27)
To be fair, to actually live out that divinely inspired proclamation is very hard work, and we will likely struggle mightily to succeed. But the fact is, that Christly message is still valid today: neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. In other words, I hold you above reproach: live your life as if you understand that.
The Apostle Paul had another way of putting it: be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (see Romans 12:2)
This naturally includes striving to hold one another above reproach as well. However, that doesn’t mean looking the other way when harm is done. Only be sure not to condemn in error, but instead offer blessing for cursing, love for hate, and good for evil. (see Matt 5:44)
Jesus’ word and works are not just good advice; they are the pathway of no reproach.
Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link. If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.