This may turn into a saga. And up front, I want your feedback and I want lots of it. This is a difficult post emotionally, theologically, eschatologically. I can only relate my own opinions and impressions. The Holy Spirit speaks to us uniquely as a body of individuals and as individuals trying to fit into His body a little better. There are concrete boundaries and concepts we all agree on, but individual tidbits touch us all individually. End of prologue.
This started a long time ago in a …. nevermind that cliche, and it recently started stirring in my mind after a hyper-minister posted to a friend’s thread something very legalistic and quoted Jesus where he said, “Go and sin no more.” Let’s go there.
And standing up and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
(John 8:10-11 EMTV)
This woman had just been caught in adultery, dragged out of her house (or her “friend’s” house) and to the Temple for trial and she was about to be killed by stoning. There were plenty of witnesses and everyone knew what she was. A trial was cursory. If you want to back up and read the whole story, please do. I need to move on ahead.
“Go, and from now on do not sin.”
I wish I had ten bucks for every time I’ve heard that particular Axe fall. Have you ever watched someone’s face- someone who is struggling with ongoing failures and sin- and they have a friend shoot that arrow straight into the heart? You see hope and Life drain out of their eyes. “Who of you, if your son asks you for a fish would give him a snake?” Don’t get me wrong, if someone is deliberately living what they know to be wrong, point it out and offer them some help at correcting it. But don’t shoot them. And keep in mind, you and I have probably done far worse.
Speaking of fish, every fish needs a tail. Let’s back up a bit and go look at a nice tail. For that, we need a chunk of scripture.
John 5:2-14 ISV Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem is a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew. It has five colonnades, (3) and under these a large number of sick people were lying—blind, lame, or paralyzed—waiting for the movement of the water. (4) At certain times an angel of the Lord would go down into the pool and stir up the water, and whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had. (5) One particular man was there who had been ill for 38 years. (6) When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (7) The sick man answered him, “Sir, I don’t have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I’m trying to get there, someone else steps down ahead of me.” (8) Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” (9) The man immediately became well, and he picked up his mat and started walking. Now that day was a Sabbath. (10) So the Jews told the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat. (11) But he answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.'” (12) They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Pick it up and walk’?” (13) But the one who had been healed did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away from the crowd in that place. (14) Later on, Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “See, you have become well. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
There it is again. Don’t sin anymore. But notice the reason why, “or something worse may happen to you.” We’ll come back to this in a moment.
Can of worms: In these two pieces of scripture can I honestly derive a command to me personally to not ever sin again or Jesus is going to make my car’s engine stall in the middle of nowhere when it’s -17F outside? Do I seriously think if you pick up a quarter from the church parking lot and put it in your pocket to spend at the car wash instead of taking it to the police like you’re supposed to then God is going to give away the PIN number to your debit card so some creep in China can drain your bank account? I’ve heard those types of inferences many times, and from devout Biblethumptarians. No, I don’t take them very seriously. Yes, God uses all circumstances to His glory, but I honestly don’t believe that God’s finished work includes his sitting with his window on the world and passing out sin citations and deciding what the fine will be.
But I’ve lived that way.
What do I think? I think we need to take Jesus literally here. Don’t sin. Sin bad. Sin leads to pain every time. Stop sinning or you may really get hurt, again. Do not go take fifty bucks cash and go “party” with anyone because you could catch all sorts of stuff. If you go to that party and leave with an extra going away present for later, who decided to give it to you, you or God? You walked in there on your own and asked for it. Be sure you tell the doctor it was your fault when he writes the prescription.
Does God wreck marriages over pornography? Does Jesus kill smokers and drinkers? Does God infect people with HIV for revenge? No. We make those choices. God is the one who arranged for forgiveness, redemption, restoration, and healing of the soul. He uses those things, but he is not the cause. And why does he let things like that happen? You’re made in his image, why not go ask a mirror the same question. Seriously, go ask the mirror why it lets bad things happen. I’ll let you think a while on that one.
If you were perfectly Holy, would you let you make your own mistakes and then be there to help you through it and out of it, or would you drop a piano on you for one little thing? And what if you’ve accepted the work of redemption done by Christ? if you’re already forgiven, WHY would God need to drop a safe on you?
Let’s stop there for now and call this Part One. I’ll go make sure the piano and safe are tied up well, just in case. I have to go catch the worms that got out.