Mercy and Challenge

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
- John 8:10-11

Jesus walks a tightrope in today’s passage. He refuses to condemn the woman; instead showing mercy to her. And yet he still challenges her lifestyle.

There are two great lies about sin. The first is that it’s all-consuming, that the sinner always gets the full punishment for the sin. According to this lie, sin defines the sinner, can never be forgiven, and will never be forgotten.

The crushing weight of this lie has led some of us to believe its equal and opposite cousin: that there’s no such thing as sin. We don’t want to be crushed by our sin so we just deny its existence. Everything is preference. Everything is subjective. We tell ourselves this over and over again, trying to make ourselves believe it.

But deep down we know this lie is a lie. When we’re wronged we feel wronged. We cry out for objective justice even if we claim to believe in subjective morality.

Between these two lies runs the straight and narrow path that we who follow Jesus find ourselves walking. Sin is real but so, too, is forgiveness. The same Christ who chooses not to condemn us also calls us to leave our life of sin. In this, we see that we are truly, madly and deeply loved.

As we close this week, we want to challenge you to grapple with your beliefs about sin. What do you think of the idea that sin is real and can really be forgiven? How will you respond today to God’s radical acceptance and his challenging call toward holiness?

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