John 8

Gospel of John, Chapter 8: The Jewish religious leaders brought to Jesus a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. The religious leaders said to Jesus “the law of Moses commands us to stone this woman. What do you say?” Jesus stooped down to write in the sand. When they persisted questioning him, he stood up and said “let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.” He then stooped down and continued writing.

One by one, the religious leaders left, until only the woman was standing before Jesus. He stood up and said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir.” “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Note that Jesus did not say “Go and leave your life of sin and then I will not condemn you. Go and change the way you live, change your behavior, change your lifestyle and then I will not condemn you.” Yet I have seen Christians do this so often; I have been guilty of this myself. We make our acceptance of other people conditional on their changing themselves.

Now it’s true that sometimes it is necessary to establish boundaries and maintain consequences for behavior. For example, someone in an abusive relationship may need the other person to change before accepting them. However, these are special cases, it is acceptance that makes transformation possible, not transformation made to earn acceptance. It is because Jesus did not condemn this woman that she could leave her empty way of life.

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