“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11, NKJV).
The story of how Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery is an all-time favorite for many of us. We love that the Savior was merciful and compassionate, even turning the spotlight from the woman to her self-righteous accusers. But to focus on the Lord’s lack of condemnation to the exclusion of His admonition to “sin no more” is to misrepresent the truth and power of His words.
A few decades ago I came across a popular book titled I’m Okay, You’re Okay, and it struck a chord of concern in me because the book was selling like crazy and readers were extolling the virtues of its anything-goes message. Some years later I had the privilege of working on Josh McDowell’s manuscript for his book The New Tolerance, in which he cautioned the Church not to get caught up in the world’s ever-increasing love affair with that “I’m okay, you’re okay” type of mantra. Josh rightly predicted that our society was well on its way to making tolerance the number-one virtue and intolerance the gravest sin. We now live in that culture, where the most oft-quoted (and misused) verse in the Bible is “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1, NKJV). Though it is true we are not to judge others based on our own opinions or personal values, neither are we to toss out the absolutes of God’s Word in fear of being considered intolerant.
The Scriptures are clear that murder, stealing, lying, adultery, and other behaviors contrary to the character of Christ are absolutely wrong. Period. Not because we say so but because God says so. To proclaim His Word is not judging; it is simply believing that what He says is True because, after all, He is Truth, and God cannot contradict His own nature and tell a lie.
The Scriptures also instruct us to “[speak] the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15, NKJV). Certainly we need to proclaim God’s truth from a heart of love, desiring to see people saved and healed and set free, for truth without love causes terrible damage to the hearers. However, love without truth becomes license and allows people to remain in their sin and continue in their separation from God.
And that is why Jesus so clearly said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” He assured her that she did not have to live under condemnation, but He also admonished her to change her ways. “Sin no more,” He warned her, for if she truly understood His message and received His forgiveness, her life would be marked by repentance, an “about-face” from her previous walk away from God to one heading straight for His heart, a life epitomized by a desire to please her Lord and reject a life of sin.
By all means may we refrain from imposing our opinions and personal values on others, but may we also love enough to speak the truth of God’s Word so others can turn from sin and enter into eternal life.