I have heard it said from a few pulpits (and I’ve said it myself) that the longest measurable distance known to man is the 18 inches between the head and the heart. The point being that what we think and what has been internalized can be vastly different.
This morning as I walked, I thought of an example.
In John 8, we are provided with the beautiful story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus, in response to her sin said, “neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Jesus expressed his love for the woman with the words, “neither do I condemn you.” The whole point of the story is a demonstration of the love of Jesus.
Paul tells us in Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (ESV)
The love of God is not dependent upon our behavior. It is not dependent on how well we follow His commands. It is not dependent upon espousing good theology. It is not dependent on anything that we do or say.
I have been a believer in Jesus for almost 60 years. But I now realize that for all of those 60 years, I have put Scripture, and what people say through a grid that is neither right, nor helpful.
Jesus expresses his love for sinners in the words, “neither do I condemn you.” But what I internalized growing up in the church is “go and sin no more.” To focus on the latter outside of the former is to develop some weird pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps spirituality that is contrary to the Gospel.
Jesus is not telling the woman, neither is he telling me, that more effort is needed, but that is the way I have responded to Jesus’ statement.
When someone has an unrealistic expectation of me that I am trying to fulfil, I hear “go and sin no more.”
When I read Scripture and it highlights my failure, I hear “go and sin no more.”
When someone unfairly criticizes me, I hear “go and sin no more.”
When someone fairly criticizes me, I hear “go and sin no more.”
The list goes on, but I realize that I have put everything through the grid of “go and sin no more.”
That is not the gospel that I believe. I fully understand that I am only saved by Grace. I fully understand that it is God’s love the prompted him to reveal Himself in Scripture. I fully understand that Jesus freely offers grace to all who believe in him and that grace is not earned or deserved.
But there is a broken piece of me that still seeks the illusion of perfection. There is a piece of me strives to be above criticism.
The biggest problem with this is that it shifts my focus to performance and away from relationship.
The two great commands are all about relationship, not about doing. But the grid I’ve used to evaluate my life switches this around and makes it all about doing and I lose sight of the relationship.
Perhaps in a future post, I will explore some of the reasons why I got into this ditch, but for now, I share this for the benefit of those who have internalized the same message.
I now chose to view Scripture as a message of love and acceptance rather than an impetus to try harder. In the face of Jesus we see one who loves sinners like me. In the face of Jesus, we see the God who loves us more deeply than we can ever imagine.
Rather than try harder, I need to take a deep breath and bask in the love of God.
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