Jesus continued teaching, people continued to listen, and the Pharisees continued in their quest to get rid of Him. On one occasion, while Jesus was teaching in the Temple complex, the Pharisees came to Him with a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. In their holier-than-thou way, they thrust her into the center of the crowd and confronted Jesus with her sin so that they could trap Him. If He said, “Stone her!” they could report Him to the Romans. But if He didn’t, then He would be going against the law of Moses. (Although, if they were really trying to follow the law then the man would be there, too. Anyone caught in the act was supposed to be stoned. Not just the woman!)
“Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” – John 8:4-5 CSB
The Pharisees of that day were busy playing “sin police.” They knew the Scriptures and the Law, but rather than helping people understand them, they were beating people over the head with them. They were cruel and unfair when they publicly humiliated this woman as though she had committed the act of adultery on her own. But Jesus is both merciful and just! Before He said a word, He stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger. Then He told them that whoever felt they were sinless should go ahead and throw the first stone.
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” – John 8:7 NIV
I wish the Bible told us what Jesus was writing. Some have speculated that He was writing a list of the Pharisees’ sins. Imagine that! There they stood all smug and righteous, ready to trap Jesus at the expense of this woman, when all the sudden they saw details of their own misdeeds being laid out for everyone to see. Instead of trapping Jesus, they were publicly exposed for their own sins. As Jesus continued to write on the ground, daring them to claim to be sinless, they started to walk away. From oldest to youngest, they left after being faced with their own guilt.
Then when Jesus was left alone with the adulterous woman, He made a life-changing declaration to her. He sent her away without condemning her and told her to sin no more. He mercifully forgave her and He freed her to move forward in a new direction!
“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” – John 8:11 CSB
Sadly, many Christians today act like “sin police”. We pick and choose which sins we want to admonish and which people we want to scold. All the while ignoring the fact that we all have a sin problem. Jesus tells us to stop throwing stones unless we are sinless. Before we start trying to fix everyone else’s sin problem, we need to work on our own. No matter how good we may think we are, we each have areas in our life that still need work.
But on the flip side of that, we need to understand that Jesus’ grace and forgiveness are not a license to keep sinning. Yes, Jesus loves us despite our sin. Yes, He forgives us of our sin. But He wants us to turn away from our sin. When Jesus said to the woman “from now on,” there was a trajectory change. That was the moment where she could choose to move forward without her sin or fall right back into it.
Before you are saved, you live life however you want, barreling towards an eternity apart from God. After you are saved, the trajectory of your life changes. What you did before doesn’t matter. The slate is wiped clean and you are given a fresh start. It is how you live from that moment forward that matters. You can make new choices! You can live a new life in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. You are no longer a slave to sin; you are a redeemed child of God!
We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin…Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.- Romans 6:6-7, 12 NLT