“Straightening up, Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Well, I do not condemn you either. Now go and from now on, sin no more.'” – John 8:10-11 NIV
And here we have the infamous story of the woman caught in adultery. The religious leaders caught a woman in the very act of adultery and brought her before Jesus to see what He would say. She was just a pawn in their desire to discredit Jesus. Some of the religious leaders, apparently aware of where He would be at that time of day, appeared and presented Him with an adulterous woman who had been caught in the act. Interrupting His message to the crowd, they placed this woman before Him. “We caught her committing adultery … we caught her in the very act. The Law of Moses says she should die. What do YOU say?!” How confident they must have felt in their “trap” as they challenged Jesus to take some action, any action, in the matter before Him. It wasn’t the woman who was “on trial” that morning in the temple courtyard. It was Jesus! But, His response to her stunned them. Notice the order of Christ’s words: “I do not condemn you. Now go and sin no more.” Even though she deserved to die, according to the law, Jesus Christ said, “I do not condemn you” and THEN He told her to “sin no more.” Imagine how frustrated the religious leaders must have been.
Well, they’re not alone – sometimes the church gets it backwards. We say, “Look, if you’re willing to change your life, then you can experience the love of Christ. Change your life first, and then you can be welcomed here.” But Jesus is saying, “I’ve forgiven you, now change your life.” When someone realizes that their life has literally been saved from the penalty of their sin, they will never be the same. And so our responsibility as the church is to reach out to those who are broken and in need of a Savior. Our responsibility is to look at those who are outside the church as individuals created by God in need of a relationship with Him. When someone trusts their life to Christ, they are made new. A new life means a changed life. The labels are gone. The shame is gone. The guilt is gone. They are a new creation. And, in gratitude at this incredible gift, there is an inner desire to change and live in a way that pleases God. If there is no change, there is no gratitude. If there is no gratitude, God’s grace has not been grasped.