BOY, DO WE ENJOY reading about him letting the Pharisees have it. Forcing all their made-up rules and regulations on the ordinary people... he doesn't let them get away with that for a minute.
And what a great story we love to tell it where the menfolk accuse and condemn a woman caught in adultery and he's drawing in the sand (John 8). "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." One by one they shrink away. That'll teach them to mind their own business. What concern is it of theirs?
"Neither do I condemn you," he said.
But uh oh he doesn't say anything about consenting adults. He doesn't say anything about it not being any of his business. Instead he makes it his business.
"Go and don't sin anymore."
So he does tell her how to live her life, and he even indirectly says that she HAS been sinning. So he IS condemning her? Or is he just judging her? Or is there any difference?
WORST OF ALL FOR a 21st-century person is the Sermon on the Mount. Nothing about consenting adults. Nothing about "as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else". Not even "if it doesn't affect anyone else". Instead, "whoever LOOKS at someone else lustfully" (Matthew 5:28) has sinned.
"Thought police!" we scream.
But this is Jesus. Think carefully before brushing off his words.
Not only, "don't murder" he says "don't hate". Not only, "don't sexually abuse" he says "don't even think about it," but as in, "it is sinful even to think about it."
For Jesus, sin is not about deeds and effects. Sin is the cold you've got, not the sneezing you wind up doing. For Jesus, morality is not just about what effects it has in the place we tend to think of as the real world. On-line and in-heart matter. You can sin there, too.
And it's just as bad as murder, just as bad as adultery. Thought police! Let him who is without sin...
He's not throwing anything. He's right outside the door you quietly locked. He's drawing in the sand. "Neither do I condemn you," but also, "go and stop sinning."
Dr Conrad Gempf is a lecturer in New Testament at London Bible College. He also writes for and edits the monthly webzine there.
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