?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
03 August 2005 @ 08:19 pm
 



John 8:1-11 is one of those passages that just "gets" me. Every time. At risk of being a bit eisegetical about it, here's why.

1Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ 6They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ 11She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’

Old Testament civil law would have called for the execution of this woman. Adultery is one of those crimes that in Leviticus is listed as a capital offense. Jesus knew this - the Pharisees knew this - they thought they had him. But Jesus also knew that not one single solitary one of them was righteous. Every last one of them was a sinner. And he called them on it. If they were to condemn her, they were for all intents and purposes initiating their own trial and judgment!

But it's those two statements at the end that just sum up the whole New Testament. It's grace and transformation in a nutshell. "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and do not sin again."

I am that woman caught in adultery. My transgression might not be adultery - it might well be something else. But it exists. It is real. You are also that woman caught in adultery. (Greed, impatience, anger, hatred, theft, falsehood, faithlessness...)

And grace says "I do not condemn you." Grace imparts divine forgiveness. Just as I'm ready to leave it at that and close the quote marks, I get swatted with "Go your way, and do not sin again." Oops. It is not that I have to change lest I be condemned...it is that I do change because I have been forgiven.

This is what I mean, when I talk about a Gospel of inclusion being inseparably partnered with a Gospel of transformation. It sort of comes right out of the horse's mouth.

Jesus said in that scripture, to me, that very woman caught in transgression of WHATEVER kind, "Go your way, and do not sin again." It means that like it or not, comfortable or not, I have to open up the Bible and use it to figure out what sin is, and shine its light on my heart to see where I am lacking, that I may faithfully and honestly make the step to go and sin no more.

It's one passage, sure.

But you take that passage, and you put it alongside Matthew 22, where the experts in the Law go to Jesus and say "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?" and Jesus says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself."

And you put it alongside Mark 10, where the man runs up to Jesus and says "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus says to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good, but God alone. You know the commandments; Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother." And the man says to Jesus, "Teacher, all these l have observed from my youth." And Jesus says: "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

And then you put John 15:14 - "You are my friends, if you do what I command" - alongside John 13:35 - "by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another".

And you start to realise that it isn't about you, or your walk, or your experience. It's about you following Jesus. That he tells you to do stuff you don't want to do. Give up your earthly possessions, leave your father and mother, pick up your cross, be persecuted for the sake of righteousness. And he tells you to love your neighbor.

The Gospel tells us to do a lot of things we aren't really naturally programmed to do - like love each other - but it also calls us to an emptying of self. To giving up the things which are most precious to us, no holding back. To a holy life which is not about us, but about glorifying God.

That is precisely why I am a political liberal and a theological conservative. Because it is in that confluence of loving my neighbor, caring for the needy, loving the Lord, and going my way and sinning no more that something really powerful happens. And it doesn't make me a right-winger, a liberal-basher, a name-caller; it isn't about self-flagellation or about condemnation of anyone else. It is the Gospel that drives my political liberalism. But it is also the Gospel that drives my theological identity. It's not either-or. It's both-and.
 
 
 
the oldest baby in the world: Dovekarenleigh on August 4th, 2005 02:48 am (UTC)
Beautiful post.
rio david_riomaggiore on August 4th, 2005 03:27 am (UTC)
reminds me of something i once read that stated if one knows the enemy an one's self, then victory is not at risk.
sometimes we are our worst enemies but ignoring or refusing mercy and grace, but one can admit imperfection, falling short, and realize that the penalty has already been paid by the judge, creator and giver of life--then the victory of freedom is already at hand, no matter the circumstances. ciao!
Sly Wicked Mister Wolfmister_wolf on August 4th, 2005 12:22 pm (UTC)
*claps*
Sly Wicked Mister Wolfmister_wolf on August 4th, 2005 12:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I rember asking you about that a while ago. In the interim, I've come to see it sort of like you do. I wonder that I ever saw it any other way.
Father Pepper Spray of Forgivenesslogodaedaly on August 4th, 2005 01:56 pm (UTC)
Awesome post. Would you mind if I cross-posted it to my blog, Progressive Protestant?
pitbull on the pantleg of opportunitymoveablefeast on August 4th, 2005 02:28 pm (UTC)
Sure thing. :)
Father Pepper Spray of Forgivenesslogodaedaly on August 4th, 2005 06:01 pm (UTC)
Posted here.
emaline0521emaline0521 on August 4th, 2005 04:19 pm (UTC)
I needed that today =) Thanks.
i am who i amsnowwhitetan on August 4th, 2005 05:35 pm (UTC)
"The Gospel tells us to do a lot of things we aren't really naturally programmed to do - like love each other - but it also calls us to an emptying of self. To giving up the things which are most precious to us, no holding back. To a holy life which is not about us, but about glorifying God."

Exactly! It is all about glorifying God, and that is done through love and helping others. Sometimes it seems we caught up in all the peripheral issues and lose sight of glorifying and worshiping Christ.

Though I do not necessarily consider myself "theologically conservative," I do agree that being theologically conservative and a political liberal (which actually comes from your faith anyhow-to love your neighbor) does, by no means, make you a right-wing zealot, or mean you despise liberals. In fact, I think it makes you very much in line with the core teachings of Christ.
kynnkynn on August 4th, 2005 06:08 pm (UTC)
And it doesn't make me a right-winger, a liberal-basher, a name-caller; it isn't about self-flagellation or about condemnation of anyone else.

Of course that doesn't make you any of those.

You just choose to be those, though. Look back over your previous comments, and you'll see that you start in with the broad accusations first.

I am not disagreeing with most of what you've written here, which was eloquently done. I do disagree strongly with theological conservativism, which I view as intellectually dishonest in most cases, but I think that if you are writing this to say "I couldn't possibly be a name-caller or liberal basher," I think you're missing the mark.

I am much more comfortable with you writing about your own experiences, viewpoints, and testimony -- as you have here -- than with your broad assertions about "weak Christology."

--Kynn
patrickb314 on August 4th, 2005 07:45 pm (UTC)
Kynn, I think you're way off base with this.I've responded in the other thread on the "weak christology" and bible issues, and I'll leave those there.

The OP clearly thinks a lot about issues related to what the bible says on sexuality - there's nothing wrong with that as the meaning of biblical passages on a number of issues *is* difficult. She's also been, at least that I've seen, careful about how she phrases things to be polite and respectful even when she disagrees. I think we owe her the same courtesy.
kynnkynn on August 4th, 2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
Okay, so you think I'm way off base.

*shrugs helplessly*

I disagree about politeness and respectfulness, but I'm not sure what you want me to do here.

--Kynn
patrickb314 on August 4th, 2005 07:38 pm (UTC)
Nice post. Thanks.
Jillian Nicholejilly769bean on August 4th, 2005 08:28 pm (UTC)
Awesome post!
Charlotte (CLB)'s LJberkeleyfarm on August 7th, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC)
Excellent post. With your permission, I'd like to link it on my "I wish I'd said that" section on my faith blog.

pitbull on the pantleg of opportunitymoveablefeast on August 8th, 2005 02:38 pm (UTC)
Sure thing :)