“I’m not a very good Christian”. Define that for me, please. “Good Christian” is a subjective term if ever I heard one. There is no such creature! Truth is, I used to think that about myself, too. Then I looked around and I saw every manner of “Christian” represented in every flavor of Christianity; bump that up against scripture and a “Christian” rainbow appears.
Yeshua (Jesus) hung with a rather eclectic crowd; relatively few of the religious leaders had much to do with him, and if they did, it was usually a covert operation on their part. All manner of “sinner” came to Yeshua, listened to Him, followed after Him, but the religious leaders rejected Him, ridiculed Him, and spent a great deal of time trying to trap Him into violating the “Law”. In my mind the biggest “sinners” were the self-righteous judgmental religious leaders of the day. And, in many cases, still remains the same to this day.
Over the years I have struggled with the word “sinner” especially as it is contrasted with “good Christian”. Sometimes it seems like we are either classified as one or the other; Biblically speaking, however, we all fit into the category of “sinner”. In the end I’m not quite certain why we have to be classified at all; we are all just people struggling to get through this thing called life, right?
Putting the philosophical mumbo-jumbo aside, let’s turn our attention to the people Yeshua hung with when He wore the clothes of humanity. It would appear those who hung out with Yeshua, following Him around the Judean countryside, were categorized as “sinners” by the religious elite. The woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the lepers, the man at the pool of Bethesda, Zaccheus, all knew they were not pure, never pretended to be, yet Yeshua met each of them at their point of need and offered them redemption, some without having even asked for it. Yeshua didn’t judge, He accepted people as they were.
The woman caught in adultery is probably one of the best known stories from the Bible. In John 8 the scene opens with Yeshua (Jesus) teaching those who had gathered in the Temple courtyard. The religious leaders of the day interrupted the teaching time by bringing a woman who had been caught in “the very act” of adultery into the center of the gathering of listeners. My question is, did they just burst into her home, his home, or the local motel and drag her from the bed, and where was the guy? It takes two to tango, as the saying goes. In any case there she stands, very likely not overly dressed, before the crowd and Yeshua, with the religious leaders challenging Yeshua on the “Law”; the Law states she is to be stoned. Yeshua bent to the ground and began writing in the dirt – what He wrote is the subject of speculation, however, that isn’t the point. After a moment Yeshua rises and says, “The one of you who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7 The Complete Jewish Bible). One by one the religious dropped their stones and walked away leaving the woman standing in front of Yeshua. He says to her, “Where are they, has no one condemned you?” She answered, “No one sir”; Yeshua responded, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.”
In light of the “Law” she was to be stoned until dead, gruesome at best. Yeshua, in spite of the Law, chose to forgive her. Wow. “Neither do I condemn you.” One would think that the “Messiah” would certainly pronounce judgment and condemnation, but He did not. Why? Because the Law already existed, because that was the standard of the day, but God had clothed His Son in the flesh of humanity to fulfill the Law thus fulfilling the condemnation, judgment and punishment for all “sin” under the Law. As humans I don’t think we fully understand how that all works and ours is not to understand it, at least on this side of eternity, however, we are asked to accept the fulfillment of the Law through Yeshua’s atoning blood sacrifice.
Yeshua also said, “Now go and sin no more.” The “no more” part has always bothered me because that part is used to condemn people who cannot stop sinning; we are human and God knows better than we do that we cannot live one moment without “sinning” whether it be in thought, word or deed. We are not “perfect”. Yeshua, Himself, said that to the religious elite; whoever is without sin gets to throw the first stone, and no one could. Since man has had his hand in transcribing the words that have become the Bible, often man has added his two-cents worth and I think this is one such example. We cannot go and sin “no more”, but we can go and turn away from a particular “sin”; something that is brought to our attention as not pleasing to God during our journey with the Creator.
You see, I don’t think we all have the same journey, although we may all be on “a” journey. God meets us where we are in life, on our journey, and together we sift through the issues that He would like for us to sift through. Granted there are things that are common to many of us that we should curtail, at best, but I don’t think they are deal breakers with God if we cannot conquer those things; things like smoking, cussing, drinking (I’m not talking alcoholism here, and even then it’s not a deal breaker with God), or tattoos. It has been my experience that very often these are the very things that other “good Christians” focus on to condemn those of whom they do not approve. Some “good Christians” disapprove or downright condemn those of us who have been divorced, people who have had affairs, or are of a different sexual orientation, while at the same time participating in “sins” that may not be as evident like gossiping, lying, stealing, judging. We like to do that, don’t we? Compare ourselves to others, and by virtue of how we may rank behavior or a lifestyle, set ourselves above others? After much soul-searching I have come to believe what Yeshua meant by go and sin “no more” was to turn from that particular sin. That sin had been brought to light, now turn from it and don’t do it anymore; that is the greater message in my mind. Yeshua was the standard, yet was realistic about the shortcomings of humanity. I know for a fact I cannot “go and sin no more” , but I can and have turned from behaviors and thought patterns that were brought to light on my journey.
Not one of us is innocent in our journey through life; His eyes of love are ever focused on each of us who are fully aware of our shortcomings and faults, piercing the darkest corners of our souls and speaking the same words, “Neither do I condemn you…….turn from that sin and go forward”…….