Go and Sin No More

The following post was written by Kevin Harris, Director of Community Relations at The Marin Foundation.

You will often hear Christians with a more conservative view of scripture as it relates to homosexuality say that they must share their faith with grace and truth when it comes to engaging the gay and lesbian community. Translated from Christianese, that can basically be read as “while sharing your faith, don’t forget to speak about your understanding of homosexuality as it relates to your theological perspective and tell those that you disagree with in a loving and compassionate way that they are wrong and living in sin.” While I don’t completely disagree with their reasoning as I believe that individuals should be true to what they believe, I have a hard time making the connection between scripture and this philosophy when I look to the life of Jesus and the examples used to back up this thinking.

Individuals will typically reference John 8: 1-11 that speaks of the woman caught in adultery as a basis for the belief that it is their duty to tell others to “go and sin no more”. After Jesus stops her accusers from stoning her, he follows that up by saying “Go now, and leave your life of sin.” While using this as justification to call others out, I think that individuals often fail to focus on Jesus’ actions leading up to that statement that gave him the authority to tell her to “go and sin no more.” Jesus stood up for her to preserve her dignity while they were trying to humiliate her as they could have kept her in private custody while they spoke to Jesus. He then proceeded to save her life and did not condemn her according to the law as he could have. He connected with her in a very profound way that paved the way for her to be able to follow him. After meeting her at her place of need and his actions on her behalf, he would have almost been justified in telling her anything as she owed everything she had to him. She also would have been incredibly thankful and thus receptive to what he had to say as he earned the right to speak into her life.

Jesus was described as being full of grace and truth (John 1:14 & John 1:17) when he came to dwell among humanity, but despite those references to his character he did not just go around telling everyone to “leave their life of sin.” Jesus talked about repentance and called out the religious leaders, but after reading through the four gospel accounts I only found one other instance where Jesus told a sole individual to stop sinning. In John 5:1-15, after healing a man of his physical ailments, he proceeds to tell him to stop sinning. Once again, his bold statement was foreshadowed by helping the person that he was speaking to in a profound way that changed the course of his life.

So if speaking with grace and truth into someone’s life means attempting to follow Jesus’ example of positively impacting individuals’ lives and loving in dramatic, life altering ways before speaking your ‘truth’ instead of just using it as a justification to tell anyone and everyone your beliefs about them in a graceful manner, I would be happy to see it more often.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • http://www.focusedonthepoint.com Tom

    thank you for your commentary on this vital theological issue. In my years in ministry I’ve come across hundreds, even thousands, of Christians who are eager to share “truth” with the world. Sadly, very few understand, let alone desire to share, real, tangible grace. Jesus was not crucified because he simply spoke truth. Jesus was crucified because of the radical, uncensored grace he bestowed on the “undeserving” as well as the truth he spoke to the religious leaders. Truth alone would have gotten him banished from the temple. Truth coupled with radical grace is a dangerous mixture, even still today.

  • Heidi

    You have just perfectly verbalized exactly what I have been thinking and feeling, especially in regards to those scriptures. Thank you! This is the basis of everything I am doing these days!

    • Kevin Harris

      Heidi – I’m happy to hear that you resonated with some of what I wrote and thank you for your humbling and encouraging words!

      • http://loveboldly.blogspot.com/ Heidi

        Sure thing! I just think we get so scared – scared that we will be misinterpreted and somehow people will start mistaking us as having been accepting of sin or something. So instead of risking what others may think of us, we hurt someone else, just so that we can protect ourselves. It’s a shame! Many people are very well intentioned when they do this, but I think it really comes down to fear at the root of things. Funny how God’s word says that “perfect love casts out fear.” Love is bold! Love is reckless! And love seeks to listen, care, and serve first! Thanks so much for your words! I love it! I am so energized to hear there is someone who shares my heart on this!

  • http://thegreengrandma.blogspot.com Hana

    Well said! Thank you for sharing this bit of truth that is so often overlooked. Grace will change the world…not Christians spouting off Scriptures that condemn. It’s the “throw the first stone” bit that stops me in my own tracks.

  • Derek Sellers

    Intriguing, I have a friend who prompted this whole conversation with me concerning GLBT issues. I’m from the more conservative camp, she is from the latter. When I asked her about her Biblical beliefs concerning it, she brought up the story of the Centurion and his pais. To her, the fact that Jesus DIDN’T say “Go now, and sin no more” after healing the pais, but instead lifted the Centurion up as a shining example of faith proved that Jesus affirmed their lifestyle.

    To me this story proves that God can use anyone and everyone, and that the love of Jesus it too great to be stopped by on what’s going on in someone’s life. Christ saw first the powerful faith in the Centurion’s heart, the kind that could move mountains. That’s what he affirmed, and that is what the Centurion is remembered for.

    Each of these stories, the adultress, the centurion, the theif who was crucified with Jesus, or even Peter, who was Jesus’ close friend and ‘rock’ that denied him in his time of need, the thing I get from them is hope. Hope that, no matter what I have in my life or how much I betray God to pursue my own interests, He still sees greater in me than what is immediately apparent. He sees my potential when I can only see my own sin.

    Whether or not someone else sees some kind of action as sin I cannot say, I can’t hold them accountable to things that they aren’t convicted with. All I can do is share my own story of how much I need God.

    • Debbie Thurman

      Thoughtful post from Kevin and an interesting follow-up here, Derek.

      I believe we *are* meant to carefully observe Jesus’ recorded examples of ministering to all sorts of people, while also looking to the grace and truth in the letters of Paul and the apostles who likewise offered instruction for the Church in the New Testament. It all is part of canon.

      And I also believe it is acceptable to make a distinction between the approach of a person called to formerly preach (i.e., to call the masses or a particular flock to corporate repentance and to facilitate the convicting of the Holy Spirit in an individual’s life) and the rest of the body, whose various gifts are distributed according to Scripture, but who also have the Great Commission.

      Any of us may be used in any way God chooses to help effect a transformation in another’s life. But we don’t do the judging or the convicting. And I don’t think teaching should be heavy-handed.

      Since it is axiomatic that honey draws more flies than gall, why shouldn’t we do the harder, more sensible thing — be part of a fellow sinner’s life in a way that engenders trust for the sake of pointing that person to Christ and the convicting that leads to repentance? That is true discipleship, and it is done one person at a time.

      Paul said he had “become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” That, too, is a thought-provoking statement.

    • Kevin Harris

      Derek – That will preach :)

      I had a fairly narrow focus when writing this post as you can see that I was focusing specifically on those that Jesus essentially told to “go and sin no more,” so thanks for opening it up a little more to your broader understanding of the hope that Jesus’ interactions elicit in you.

      “To me this story proves that God can use anyone and everyone, and that the love of Jesus it too great to be stopped by on what’s going on in someone’s life.”

      Aside from being encouraging, that statement made me wonder about how often we might disqualify someone from being used by God in a powerful way based upon our own preconceived notions and moral standards related to the qualifications for God to use someone or the personal holiness or lack thereof in an individual’s life. As you pointed out, time and time again God used the adulteress, centurion, thief on the cross, Samaritan woman, and others in scripture that were looked down upon morally to be the hero of the story. Although we understand that, I still wonder how often we fail to see God working through similar people today based upon our own outlook.

  • Sam

    I find it most interesting that those who need to share the truth as they see it regarding what they think the Scripture has to say about homosexuality are not so open when others want to share with them what those people understand the Scripture to say about gluttony, lies, stealing, adultery, lust, pornography, helping the poor and other issues.

    How about “Get your own ship in order, spend some time to build a relationship with me, show love to me in a tangible way and then when I’m ready to ask you questions and listen to your answers, I’ll do that. Otherwise, I don’t care what you think. Trying to tell me is a sure guarantee I won’t accept you or what you have to say.”

    • Debbie Thurman

      Of course, it is less than useless, as well as being the height of hypocrisy, to harp on one point of truth (or alleged truth) in an attempt to “remove the speck” from another’s eye while overlooking other points of truth that hit too close to home. Yes, we ought to be so preoccupied with keeping our own houses in order, we have no time to straighten up anyone else’s.

      But going beyond this obvious point that we feel we must repeat over and over, where is our proper place in purveying the truth? Do we refrain from speaking because we can’t get it right? Do we simply open the Bible and let it speak truth to “those who have ears”?

      Interestingly, I reread these words from Oswald Chambers last night. They are from the Nov. 26 reading in “My Utmost for His Highest”:

      “If I talk my own talk, it is of no more importance to you than your talk is to me; but if I talk the truth of God, you will meet it again and so will I. We have to concentrate on the great point of spiritual energy — the Cross, to keep in contact with that centre where all the power lies, and the energy will be let loose. …

      The feebleness of the churches is being criticized to-day, and the criticism is justified. One reason for the feebleness is that there has not been this concentration of spiritual energy; we have not brooded enough on the tragedy of Calvary or on the meaning of Redemption.”

      Chambers was instructing future preachers, of course, and he was calling churches “feeble” in the early 20th century. But I think we’re all in there somewhere still. Do we truly understand the meaning of redemption, and the power it brings to an individual’s life? Are we willing to let that powerful search beam penetrate us to the core? Unless we can first stand in the light of truth, we cannot ask anyone else to stand in it.

      I also wonder what kind of grade the Church gets today on intercessory prayer — the kind where we get ourselves out of the way (refuse to be minor providences) and seek the will of God for another.

  • Nathalie A

    very thought provoking post kevin.
    what i understood you say is that we need to practice more grace before we can even give the truth. that we need to show people we care in tangible ways so that they are open to the truth.

    i get that in some ways. it makes sense to have a context to tell someone something they may not like to hear. build a relationship with the person…

    i also believe that at times, it may not be our place to tell someone what is sin or if they are sinning/ etc regardless of grace

    i love it how derek sellers, previously stated it
    “Whether or not someone else sees some kind of action as sin I cannot say, I can’t hold them accountable to things that they aren’t convicted with. All I can do is share my own story of how much I need God.”

    I can’t hold them accountable to things that they aren’t convicted with

    that speaks volumes to me. i’ve had friends who i am close with, developed a strong relationship and know that we have opposing views on some things and that despite any amount of grace, me telling them that what they are doing is a sin would come out more as a judgment

    i don’t know. i know we need to hold each other as brothers and sisters in christ accountable. at times i think we need to understand the individual and ask God for guidance on how to share the truth.

    there are more than one way to share truth. you can live it. you can respectfully disagree. one can say i view this as such an such and not pronounce a judgment on someonelse’s behavior. but them again is that being too soft? shouldn’t we be more decisive/sure/etc.
    i get the whole fear thing, heidi. i hear you. i’ve been there.. i don’t know…
    maybe its all just a balance.

    difficult questions…

    nathalie

    • Kevin Harris

      I appreciate the questions that you bring to the table. You basically summarized my main point with your first paragraph, but I also agree with you as I do not see a specific formula and we should seek God for guidance on how to share our truth as it varies with each individual person if it is appropriate. I tend to focus on trying to faithfully live out my faith and trying to be honest with the standard that I am trying to live up to and the hope I have found in Christ, but that does not mean that I can confine God to working through me in only that manner in relation to others.

  • http://www.benjermcveigh.com Benjer McVeigh

    True. Love–real, Jesus love–is a prerequisite before speaking truth into someone’s life.

  • Kris Smith

    Thanks Marin Foundation for writing about this. It is important to love people where they are at since no one has it all figured out.

  • Teresa Ginardi

    I’m thoroughly enjoying and learning from the Posts here on Love is an Orientation. Regarding this Post, it seems that we’re all concerned about speaking our truth, or getting our grace so as to ‘witness’ or make someone else our little ‘project’.

    To me, this is a 2-way street. What about us being told a truth we find hard to take? What about our reaction when someone we hold as “less than”, calls us out on our stuff? I go back to the fact that we’re all beggars being shown by other beggars where to find bread … or, we’re beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.

    It’s not an I’ve got it … let me show you, is it … even if the “let me show you” is nuanced, timed, thought out?

  • Steven

    “Since it is axiomatic that honey draws more flies than gall, why shouldn’t we do the harder, more sensible thing — be part of a fellow sinner’s life in a way that engenders trust for the sake of pointing that person to Christ and the convicting that leads to repentance? That is true discipleship, and it is done one person at a time.”

    So are you saying that providing a fine, upstanding example of heterosexuality to a gay person will result in them repenting of their homosexuality and becoming heterosexual themselves?

    I wonder why that didn’t work in my family. Maybe my parents weren’t as free of sin as you. Indeed, perhaps your straightness is so perfect in every way that every gay you come into contact will be overcome by your virtue and immediately “convert”.

    Honestly, is Christianity just narcissism writ large?

    Regards

    Steven


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