When Jesus asks her where her accusers are; whether or not there is anyone left who condemns her, she she indicates that she knows that there are none there anymore. And he says, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go thy way and sin no more.”
So, first in this chapter we see Jesus withstanding the temptation to condemn a woman who has committed a very serious sin or even enjoy the thrill of listening to the lurid accusations, and instead, makes it clear that he is not condemning her, though he does kindly encourage her to change her both her heart and her actions.
As his disciples, we should take note. And certainly, that is what he discusses in the next verses: “I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life. It seems that there is a real connection between choosing not to condemn and walking in life giving light instead of darkness.
My personal experience is that this is so; that when I condemn another’s behavior, my spiritual life is darker and more fraught with irritablility and lack of progress, and that when I cease to indulge in condemnation, there is much more spiritual light in my life.
Next Jesus ties this sin of judging/condemning to the sin of failing to repent. That makes sense. Generally when we are focusing on another’s sins we are simultaneously minimizing or even totally ignoring our own. And when we minimize our sins or ignore them, there is no way we can turn our hearts to believe in Christ and his teachings, turn to God, and, repenting, change our ways.
As an aside, almost all of us have lots of practice in condemning others. We lived in world full of the practice when we were in middle school, where the most common way of trying to deal with one’s own insecurity was to find real or imaginary flaws in others so that you could feel better about yourself. Most of us need decades of practice to fully repent and leave that sinful habit behind. So if you recognize this sin in yourself, you have lots of company.
Next, Jesus explains that if we choose to live in the way that he is warning us against, “Ye shall die in your sins; for if ye believe not that I am he [who was sent from heaven], ye shall die in your sins…whither I go ye cannot come.”
In other words,if we are spending our time condemning the sins of others, which inclines us to spend little time turning to Jesus and repenting of our own sins, we cannot expect to be spending much time with him. He couches it this way, “Ye are from beneath, I am from above. I am not of this world.
It is really quite interesting to me that John then ties these two ideas, a) NOT condemning and judging others and instead b) following Christ, as a consistently repentant and believing disciple, to the definition of “being not of this world.”
“Being not of this world” includes, in a very big way, avoiding the sin of condemning others and instead, leading a humble and repentant life; replacing condemnation with considerate, thoughtful and kindly invitations to others to also turn to and change.
So, the next time I hear the adage, “Be in the world but not of the world”, I hope I will remember that.
Sometimes people think that they must loudly and clearly condemn a person they know who sins, that if they don’t, the person will never change, and worse, others will follow them.
But Jesus’ pattern flies in the face of that belief. Instead he speaks a thoughtful, simple, response to the ones indulging in condemnation, refusing to engage them in debate, but speaking truth briefly and then keeping his peace while choosing to remain. Next he makes it clear to the woman that he does not condemn her.
We sometimes hear the non-scriptural adage, “love the sinner but hate the sin”. But He does not indulge in “hating the sin”. Instead, finally, having established himself to her as a true source of safety and help, he invites her to change; to repent, to, ultimately, turn towards God and to leave the sin behind.
So, what happened to the woman in this case? What did she do? The King James Version doesn’t say. But the Inspired version states, “And the woman glorified God from that hour and believed on his name.”