I Liked Jesus Better Then 6

There is a myth in American culture that little girls dream of a prince coming to rescue her. If that myth is true, what does it say of the woman for whom no charming prince comes? That she is unlovable? That she deserves scorn and abuse? Such a woman, Rubel Shelly says in his new book, I Knew Jesus Before He Was a Christian… And I Liked Him Better Then can be found in John 7:53-8:11, and after all her accusers walked away, there stood Jesus. With these words: Neither do I condemn you. Rubel says it’s probably not original to the Bible, and I agree with him. But it’s a story about Jesus worthy of our consideration.

What are some stones in your world that have to be tossed down? Are you a stone thrower? Or, are you like Jesus who said “Neither do I condemn you.”

Rubel says he meets folks like this woman every day, folks who have become cynical by the way they’ve been treated, sometimes by the church.

What this text says is that whatever you have done can be forgiven. The real issue is not their past sin but the future with God. But many in the church tell a different story. They tell folks that they have to clean up first; or that even if they do clean up they’ll still be second class.

Some are far more afraid of church folk than bar folk. Church folks throw stones of gossip, and stones of rejection and stones of withdrawal, and stones of judgment. Those stones are of no use to Jesus. The stones were dropped and there was Jesus, “Neither do I condemn you.”

But Jesus, not church folk, is the one who talks truth, and he said “Neither do I condemn you.” The stone throwers walked away. Jesus offered grace and grace turned the woman from a sinner to a saint, from rejected to welcomed. The stone throwers shower the woman with a world that does not love, but Jesus is the one who loves.

The way to convince folks of God’s love is to tell the Story of God’s love for us. For those caught red-handed in sin the solution is to tell the truth and to turn to Jesus for mercy. He’s standing there, without stones in his hands. He bore the stones. They’re in a pile behind him.

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  • Fred

    Was Jesus a stone thrower when he tossed the money changers out of the temple?

  • MD

    i love his alcoholics anonymous analogy. those who attend aa focus on their brokenness and ask for support to change. your “Some are far more afraid of church folk than bar folk” points out two scenarios, one characterizing finger-pointing, and one characterizing acceptance of brokenness. aa is the best characterization of what the church can be – a place of honesty and hope.

  • Joe Canner

    Fred #1: Technically, yes…but that would miss the point: Jesus consistently had harsh words and actions aimed at the religious establishment. So, while we could see Jesus’ expulsion of the money changers in the temple as an counterexample of Jesus’ love and forgiveness, it might be more appropriate to look at what Jesus might do if he encountered today’s version of organized religion.

  • David

    “The real issue is not their past sin but the future with God.”


  • Amos Paul

    @1 & 3,

    I think that I would rather focus, in that instance, on the righteous indignation that the money-changers needed to be made aware of conerning the sin that they were committing against God and others at that moment. Did they even know that what they were doing was wrong? Was it some sort of subconscious understanding that they had buried down within themselves beneath their greed for profit and wealth?

    Just because Jesus loves and forgives you (the person) doesn’t mean he may not, at times, use rebuke to draw your attention to the wrongness evil you’ve williingly incorporated into your life and actions–especially if it is currenty hurting others!

    Rev 3:19, Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.

    Prov 3:12, Because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

    Presumably, these moneychangers were still welcome in love into the spiritual and physical house of God–though perhaps not free to practice their sin therein!

  • Taylor

    Joe #3,

    I agree, but maybe more than you intended. Jesus is always amazing to me. His words didn’t stop at, ‘Neither do I condemn you.’ That offers acceptance, but no hope.

    So He said one more thing. ‘Go and sin no more.’ Debate rages over whether this was descriptive or prescriptive. I believe both.

    It often seems to me that half the church heard one sentence and half the church heard the other.

    “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

    Which is why we can unconditionally love sinners, even the saved ones, and still preach repentance. Not just acceptance.

  • Fred

    Joe #3

    That’s exactly my point. Sometimes things aren’t always what they seem. So, what would Jesus do today? I think today, in some cases, he might throw the ego changers out of the temple. Then again, as Amos pointed out, he would probably offer rest to those in leadership who are under tremendous pressure to “pack ’em in.”

    I fear I tend to throw stones at church leaders more than I should. OTOH, I have many friends out there who hunger to hear and experience God’s word and they don’t. So it’s a constant checking and rechecking of motives for me.

    I remember rjs once saying that, when it comes to the current situation in the church, (I think it’s a) she tries not to care, or something to that effect. I am not exactly sure what she meant by that but I find myself thinking the same thing at times.

  • Joe Canner

    Amos #5 and Taylor #6: Good points. I have been thinking a lot about this lately and it seems that Jesus didn’t have a formula for such things (or at least it is not recorded that way). We don’t read of Jesus telling Zaccheus to repent, but he did anyway. Jesus forgave the sinful woman who annointed him with perfume, but didn’t tell her what to do next. Jesus confronted the Samaritan woman with her sin but left it at that.

    For me, the take-home is this: love comes first (even at the risk of being considered tolerant of sin), then discern what the person needs. Sometimes the Holy Spirit chooses to work in a person on a much different schedule than we would.

  • Kenton

    FWIW, Kenneth Bailey makes an excellent case for why he thinks the story was original (in spite of the disclaimer in my NIV).

    In “Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes” he asserts that when the early manuscripts of gospel of John was copied (by hand and for the wealthy) it was the one story most often omitted. It was too scandalous. If their children reading it found out that adultery could be forgiven they might lose the family honor. So they didn’t pay for the extra pages to copy it.

  • To all talking about the temple… I think this is one of those events we totally miss in Christianity. He wasn’t purifying the temple. He was upset at what it had become ( at least as an isolated place); it was a prophetic action. Matthew and Mark sandwich the story with the fig tree being destroyed because it didn’t bear fruit. Matthew 21 is the temple action, 23-24 is the foretelling of the destruction of the the temple and the destruction of Jerusalem. Luke places next to the weeping over Jerusalem scene. The ineffectual temple protest was probably a prophetic action that foretold the destruction of Israel, Jerusalem and the temple.

    Jesus is the new temple (which he rebuilt in 3 days, this phrase is the blasphemy charge that leads to his death). His death has the splitting of the temple curtain, another sign. So, it wasn’t about stones and forgiveness, it was about destroying all things old and rebelious that didn’t bear fruit. They were cut off from the vine…