Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more. -- John 8:11
In his book Things I Wish Jesus Hadn't Said, Joe Edd Morris reflects upon the story of the woman caught in adultery, among other stories that challenge us greatly. He calls this section of his book, simply and profoundly, "neither do I condemn you."
It is a hard teaching, this teaching of Jesus that we offer grace, that we refrain from condemnation of others. Our brother Joe Edd writes,
Forgiveness is tough; it is a hard thing to do. With all of our biases and prejudices, our conditioned attitudes and our ingrained moral systems, foreclosing is much easier than forgiving. It is simply easier to turn our head, walk away, and not invest. The foreclosing on another is safe, forgiving is risky. We have no guarantees our forgiveness of another will change a behavior. But is that the goal, forgiving with the expectation people will turn around, go and sin no more? Forgiveness comes from love and love accepts without conditions. When we forgive, we have no agenda, no objectives. Unlike the accusers of the woman, when we forgive, we are not interested in control. Tillich reminds us that "forgiveness is unconditional or it is not forgiveness at all.
Jesus forgives the woman with no strings attached. In his demonstration of love for her, he can only hope, but not control, that his forgiveness makes love possible. She cannot love unless she accepts the forgiveness and "the deeper our experience of forgiveness, the greater is our love... Being forgiven and being able to accept oneself are one and the same thing."
Forgiveness is always a miracle, always a gift. There is power in forgiveness, for the one who offers and for the one who receives. -- Hope Morgan Ward
Prayer: Lord Jesus, teach us to forgive. Grant us grace to withhold condemnation and offer space for newness of life, we pray. Amen.
Hope Morgan Ward is the resident bishop of the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church.