A fundamentalist turned freedom chaser with an obnoxiously stubborn faith.

Go and Sin No More

It’s that simple and that hard.
Go and sin no more.
And with those words Jesus made the prostitute pure; she was perfect and holy and never had to struggle against her desires again.
Or did Jesus simply make her accountable?
Like when Tom Hanks tells Private Ryan to “earn it” at the end of the movie. The work has been done, people have died, there is a mess of blood and sweat around him and he looks into the eyes of the man they sacrificed for to say, “Get your ass in gear.”
Private Ryan and Mary Magdalene were made accountable to real love. No excuses, no room for insecurities. Love came in the form of strangers telling showing them they were already valuable and that they now needed to act like it.
I am believing less and less in a gospel of shame. I no longer think that eternal damnation needs to be brought up to bring myself – or anyone – to repentance. I no longer think that trying to convince people they suck is the way to go, either. I no longer believe that we are called to a better life simply because we really ought to feel bad for how much we hurt God (which I don’t think is an entirely inappropriate sentiment, but not the necessarily prevailing one).
But I am believing more and more that we are called to a better life because of how much God cares about our hurts. I believe we are beckoned into a story – a really grand, tragic, breathtaking story – that is, at it’s core, about LOVE. I believe there is no escaping God’s love or his concern.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes in all things.

And I believe that love is serious business. It demands courage and sacrifice and honor and heartbreak. It will weed out the cowards and the manipulators – maybe more rightly, the cowardice and the manipulation. It is good and right and warm, but it is also sober and uncompromising.
Jesus offered the prostitute forgiveness and a high expectation. I don’t know her life, but if “prostitute” means the same thing then that it does today, she was counting on her income. She was at the bottom of the social ladder. She was humiliated. He wasn’t just asking her to stop indulging in a recreation, he was telling her to rearrange her life. He didn’t tell her – at least not in that moment that we know of – exactly how to do it, just that it had to be done.
And we see in the New Testament that it was done. And that she had a family because of her proximity to Jesus; a family that I believe we can safely assume kept her sheltered and fed and clothed while she turned away from her former occupation.
Go and sin no more.
I think that includes unforgiveness – go and unforgive no more. {bear with the awkwardness of that sentence, please.}
I encounter God and my bitterness is slaughtered. It’s gory. All the indignation I have worked so hard to bolster is torn down with a single word. My rationalizations are exposed and stinking. And there before God I have no problem forgiving, loving, pushing into the situations that hurt the most.
But when I arrive at the crime scene – my blood still splattered on the walls, the chalk outline fresh from where my detectives surveyed the damage – I feel about as loving as a sadist. I want to throw in jabs and show them scars and give them tears that pierce their heart. I want them to pay – in remorse, in shame, in feelings of inadequacy. I want them to know I am better, I am taking a high ground, I am heaping burning coals upon their heads, I am killing them with kindness. I want them to know that they got to me, but I am rising above. Even when I am so. not.
Could she have gone to every John and made them feel disgusting? Could she have paraded her new life with the Jewish Hotshot in front of them, proclaiming her new freedom while remaining enslaved to her superiority, her pride? Yup.
Would she have been found out by Jesus? Yup.
Could she have gone to every John and made them feel renewed with her grace and compassion? Could she have grabbed their hands and brought them to the Man Turning Tables so they could see what it was like to hear him say, “you’re forgiven?” Could she have walked in freedom with the very men who used to keep her bound; ignored the ache of old wounds that might have surfaced as she watched them repent? Yup.
Would she have been found out by Jesus? Yup.
And what would Jesus say to her? What did God say to Abraham as he offered Issac? Our hurts are like our children. They are part of us, they are dear to us. We nurture them and defend them violently. Do we think God doesn’t care when we offer them up? Do we think he doesn’t get how much it hurts to let go of hurts? That we are fighting against our instincts – the ones He gave us – to assert ourselves, to be valued? Do we think it is not important to him what we are giving up? Why do I hang on so tightly if I believe he understands?
Because I do, intellectually, believe that God gets it. But if God cares for my heart, he cares for the other guy’s heart, too and sometimes I just don’t like that. I want God to be on my side because I’m the victim.
And I’m old enough to know it’s way more complicated than that, but it is just so convenient to forget that everyone has been a victim, everyone is operating out of a web of hurts and healings. A place full of ghosts and altars. And it is just too hard to give up my pain because… I don’t trust that God will unbreak me. I don’t trust that His love is enough to make me truly whole again. At least when I’m entertaining ghosts I feel familiar. What if I let them go and God stands me up?
So I yell things I’ll regret. I hit the wall, I slam cabinets. I say the F-word. I drive the point further than it needs to be driven and I leave it there bruised and battered beyond recognition.
Go and sin no more. Because you don’t have to.
Go and sin no more. Because your life is no longer dependent on your self-preservation.
Go and sin no more. Because your heart is precious to me and I don’t want to see it beat up anymore.
Go and sin no more. Because I love you. And that’s enough.

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