8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]] (emphasis mine) (John 8:2 - 11)What if she did it again?
Seriously. What if two weeks later, Jesus is at the same place teaching and she is brought before Him again. Would His answer be any different? One would think that after narrowly escaping being stoned to death that she'd become the earliest version of Mother Teresa! But what if she didn't.....what if she messed up again. How many times would she have to be brought before Jesus before He'd say, "You know what? I'm done! Give me a stone! I didn't condemn you....I let you off the hook and you just totally took advantage of my kindness! I've had it! You deserve this! Start throwing!!"?
I can't even picture Christ saying ANYTHING like this to her! He showed her mercy when she didn't even ask for it. Is there anything that He taught that would lead us to believe that He can get fed up with us? That we can run out of chances to "get it right"?
27“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6: 27 - 28)It seems here that Jesus is instructing us on His own character. He loves those who hate Him. He forgives. He doesn't hold grudges. He doesn't get fed up with us. In fact, even with the last bit of physical strength He had in Him, He asked forgiveness on those who were mocking, torturing and killing Him.
When we just keep sinning
But what about when we can't seem to get things right? When we act just like the sheep we are? Call it habitual sin (again, what is that?? ALL sin is habitual!), call it a big mess up, call it sins of omission.....of not doing what we know is right....not giving to those in need....not caring for the sick....not bearing each other's burdens....that stuff that we do every day. When does He say, "You know what! I'm done! You're not taking advantage of my goodness any more! You're just trying to make a fool out of me!" I mean, that's what we would do, right? We forgive someone a wrong they've done to us and they keep doing it, or they keep wronging us in some other way, how long are we going to put up with that? But Jesus isn't us. It's breathtaking how utterly and unabashedly good He is. Peter wanted to know the same thing....
21Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.(emphasis mine) (Matthew 18: 21-22)I picture Peter saying to Jesus, "I mean REALLY! How often do I have to put up with someone messing me over!? I'll forgive him seven times and then I'm done. Seriously Lord, at some point, shouldn't I stand up for myself?!" And Jesus says, "No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying seventy times that!" Which, by my understanding, means infinity....always. We forgive every time! And interestingly, again, there's no mention of the offender ASKING forgiveness. Apparently, they don't HAVE to ask our forgiveness for us to grant it.
So where the heck am I going with this?
It just seems to me that we're so quick to talk about what someone's life looks like after they've become a believer and if it doesn't look a certain way, then they just didn't get it. But my point is, there is nothing about Christ's character or His actions that demonstrates that's the way He feels. In fact, everything He teaches seems to teach the opposite.
I realize that goes against everything that we believe about justice and fairness. If we'd been in the company of Jesus when this woman was brought before Him, I've no doubt we would all have been humbled. (Of course, we'd see ourselves as the pharisees, graciously condescending to show mercy (but you really HAVE to read this, by Jim McNeely....he's quickly becoming one of my favorite bloggers), but the reality is that we're the adulterous woman!) However, if it kept happening, we'd start picking up stones. But again, thank God that Jesus isn't us!
How does anyone ever grow to love God more if they constantly are afraid that they are running out of chances to prove that they really "got it"? Is the gospel a certain amount of chances to get it right? Or is it infinite mercy, forgiveness and GRACE?