In my reading for today I read the account of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. In this telling Jesus says, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.”
I have no issues with the story or the lesson Jesus was/is teaching. However, I do have issues with the word ‘sin’.
I don’t like that word, ‘sin’.
It has such negative connotations. Inherent within that word is condemnation.
I grew up spiritually on that word and it still frightens me.
‘Sin’ is used by fire & brimstone preaches to warn people of hell
‘Sin’ has been used by Christianity for centuries to maintain a semblance of control over the populace.
‘Sin’ has been used as a battering ram or baseball bat to whack people over their heads or in their souls to make them fall into line – to force them to live a lie—you can’t force or coerce true change in a person. They have to want it, deeply and truly want to change.
I’m not saying that people don’t do bad things to themselves and to others because they (we) do. (Even as I write this I am eating a delicious piece of chocolate cake—is that a sin? Or is it just an unhealthy thing to do to my body?)
But the word ‘sin’ is a terrible word. There is no love in that word. Not even a promise of God’s love in that word. Only a promise of condemnation, of failure, and of death without reconciliation to the God who created us. Is this what a loving God wants of us?
Can we dispense with that word? I already rarely use the word. To me it is like a curse word. ‘Sin’ is a catch-all term for saying “Face it people, you suck. And if you don’t straighten up, you’re doomed to the fires and suffering of hell for all eternity.”
Why not be more clear with the wrongdoing? People will refuse to change unless they understand why it is necessary to change.
Jesus told the adulteress “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” But did she? Or did she just breathe a sigh of relief, thanked her lucky stars and went back to her freewheeling sexual ways?
What if the Apostle John—or the interpreters of his writing—got it wrong?
What if Jesus said something like this:
“I don’t condemn you for your adultery. You have been unaware of your need for love (or intimacy or affirmation) or whatever is driving you to break your vow of marriage or chastity. That deep-seated need in you will not be met or filled with adultery. Only the love of God can meet that need, only presence of God can fill the emptiness. Now that you are aware of this you must make a choice between what will continue to rob you of your dignity and love or what will fill you with peace of heart, soul and mind. What will you do?”
I don’t know—maybe it was just easier to say, ‘go and sin no more’ since that statement requires no soul-searching in order to change.
Dear Gracious God,
I don’t believe that in the day of judgment You will condemn Your Own creation—Your Own children—to an eternity out of Your presence. However, I do believe that we may condemn ourselves. In that day when I stand before You if I have unresolved anger or unforgiveness or the like in my heart, I will condemn myself because that which is not good or kind or of love or pure or of peace will be able to stand in Your glorious presence. And in fact, will flee from it, thus spending an eternity outside of You. That is a true hell of my own making.
I may be wrong about this whole ‘sin’ thing. If I am, Heavenly Father, please correct me. Help me to see Your truth—not my truth, not religious truth—but Your truth. For You alone are what matters – in this world, and in the world to come.