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 TNIV).
We often seize on that first phrase of Jesus' words of grace, "Then neither do I condemn you." We know this is why Jesus came: to remind us that God does not want us to be lost in our sin and the messes it brings to our lives. The Father loves us too much for that (John 3:16-17). The whole story of Jesus, becoming one of us and living in human skin, is about God's searching and sacrificial love.
Part of that love, part of God's grace, involves changing us ... moving us from a life of destructive rebellion and awakening us to His whole purpose in us (Ephesians 2:1-10). So Jesus doesn't just demonstrate His love for us in grace and forgiveness of our past; the Lord also shows us His love in calling us away from a life of sin in the future. Notice the second phrase of Jesus' words of grace, "Go now and leave your life of sin."
Sin involves falling short in pleasing God. Sin can also involve outright rebellion. But sin always involves destructive actions and words that destroy us and those around us. Jesus loves the people He rescues too much to leave them unchanged. This woman Jesus blesses had been used and abused. Jesus stepped in to save her, protect her, and give her a new start. So Jesus gave her the walk away blessing of a call to righteous living, "Go now and leave your life of sin."
I fear that we often talk about the grace in terms of only Jesus' first phrase and neglect the second. We somehow divorce the words of acceptance and forgiveness from the call to holiness. Yet Jesus' grace always includes a call away from what is destructive and toward our holy Father's character.
Jesus' ministry began with this call:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (Matthew 4:17).
His ministry ended with a challenge for His closest followers to do the same:
You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:48-49).
This is exactly what Jesus' followers did on the Day of Pentecost when Jesus poured out the Spirit:
"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:38-39).
They were not ashamed to call people to repentance — to a change of heart, mind, and behavior — because they knew Jesus didn't just save people from sin, but that He also called them to life, peace, and glory:
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord ... (Acts 3:19).
And he [Jesus] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:15).
So let's not forget to share both sides of God's love and Jesus' compassion. God's searching love welcomes all who will come to Jesus for life and that love transforms us so we can live our life in ways that reflect His character and honor His sacrifice. As we do, we discover that God longs to give us life we could never have imagined.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
For more on this topic as well as discussion questions, see Phil's blog: