"Sin No More."

In yesterday's post--"Go And Sin No More."--I was discussing the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Specifically, I was discussing how this story is frequently used by people wanting to push back on radical calls to hospitality. The fact that Jesus sent the woman off with the words "Go and sin no more" suggests to some that Jesus's welcome of "tax collectors and sinners" was not as radical and scandalous as might seem.

So in my post I opportunistically used the fact that John 8.1-11 isn't found in the earliest manuscripts we have of John. Most modern translations of the bible (even "conservative" translations like the ESV) have a footnote to this effect. In light of that, I suggested, for the sake of argument, that we imagine that this passage isn't in the bible, or, at the very least, imagine that this passage is a bit less authoritative. In light of that imagining--and that's all I'm asking for, a theological Gedankenexperiment--I went on to ask, where else in the gospels could you go to get Jesus saying something similar to the "Go and sin no more" of John 8.11?

Alastair Roberts suggested John 5.14. The full story:
John 5.1-15 (ESV)
After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 
Jesus tells the man to "sin no more" (ESV; "stop sinning" in the NIV). Is this an equivalent passage if we lost John 8.11? Could John 5.14 lift the same theological weight as John 8.11?

My take, and this is just my take, is yes and no.

But before we get to that we have to deal with the difficulty of the text. And, truth be told, this difficulty might rule out John 5.14 as a backup for John 8.11. Specifically, on one reading of the text it seems that Jesus is telling the man that his sin caused his lameness. If that is what Jesus is suggesting we have a really difficult passage on our hands. So difficult that we'd want to take some care in deploying it. Part of the appeal of John 8.11 is that it occurs in such a great story. Perhaps the most well-known story in all of the gospels. In addition Jesus's admonition "Go and sin no more" seems non-controversial: Don't continue to commit adultery. Who could disagree with that?

But if John 8.1-11 didn't exist (in our thought experiment) I can't see people using John 5.14 with a similar zest and frequency. I find in hard to imagine that people would use John 5.14 as they currently use John 8.11: "Hey, calm down that radical hospitality, that radical welcome of sinners. Didn't Jesus tell the lame man to 'sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.'?"

I really don't see that happening.

That said, I don't think Jesus is saying that the man's lameness was punishment for his sin. I think Jesus is simply telling the man that he's got a fresh start and that there are some strings attached. The healing, the in-breaking of the Kingdom, is not a blank check. I think Jesus is saying, "Yes, you've been healed. Physically you've been released from the bondage of Satan. But what about spiritually? Going forward if you neglect your soul there will be something worse waiting for you." I don't think Jesus is talking about the past, about a 38-year old sin. I think he's talking about accountability in the future going forward.

So I don't think we need to read Jesus's words as saying that physical disability can be a punishment for sin. But if we don't read the story that way we have, instead, a reading that reads pretty much the way John 8.11 reads: a strong admonition going forward to "sin no more."

So in that sense, I agree with Alastair that John 5.14 sends the same message as John 8.11. "Sin no more."

But here is where I think the two texts are a bit different.

What makes the argument from John 8.11 so potent is the sexual frame. The sin is clearly stated. Adultery. So when Jesus says to the woman "Go and sin no more" we know exactly what he's referring to: adultery.

Recall again when the John 8.11 card gets played. It gets played when the radical hospitality has gotten too radical, when it's gotten "soft on sin." And the sins here tend to be the typical puritanical vices with sexual sins often at the head of the list. Given this, John 8.11 has some punch. Jesus isn't soft on those sexual sins. And we shouldn't be either.

The trouble is, Jesus did seem very welcoming of these sexual sinners. That's what got him in hot water with the Pharisees, why the radical hospitality of his table fellowship was so scandalous and, well, "soft on sin."

Truth be told, I do think there is a dialectic at work here. Jesus's "neither do I condemn you" playing off "go and sin no more." The trouble I have isn't with the dialectic. Let me be clear about that. My trouble is that the "go and sin no more" isn't used dialectically but as a means to undermine the "neither do I condemn you," a means to reduce the scandal of Jesus's eating with tax collectors and sinners. That's what I'm objecting to, the use of John 8.11 to reduce the scandal of Jesus's radical hospitality--then and now.

And here's where I think John 5.14 differs from John 8.11 in this regard. In John 5.14 we don't know what the sin was that the man had committed. In fact, if we read Jesus as I've suggested Jesus isn't really talking about a sin in the past (like the woman in John 8). Jesus is looking forward. The healed man has a clean slate. But there are strings attached. Sin no more, Jesus says. And we might ask, what sins is the man to avoid?

Ah, that's the rub.

In John 8.11 we know exactly what sin Jesus is telling the woman to avoid. Stop sleeping around, he's saying. But what is Jesus asking of the man in John 5.14? The admonition is more vague and open-ended. No particular sin is implicated. So we are left to fill in that void. We ask, what sorts of things did Jesus condemn? How did Jesus define sin? What sorts of things got Jesus really hot under the collar? Sexual sins? The puritanical sorts of sins? Or other sorts of things?

These sorts of questions bring me back to the point of the original post. Outside of John 8.11 where do we see Jesus saying "Go and sin no more"? John 5.14 is one such place. But John 5.14 has two problems. First, it's such a difficult text it raises more questions than it answers. But, secondly, even if those problems can be surmounted (and I showed above how I deal with them) the text is open-ended and asks us to fill in the blank: When Jesus says "sin no more" in John 5.14 what sorts of things does Jesus condemn in the gospels?

For Jesus sin is _______.

How that blank is filled in is what I'm most interested in.

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41 thoughts on “"Sin No More."”

  1. Would it be wrong to define sin, in noun form, as separation from God-without God and in verb form as separating yourself from God?
    If that definition can stand, is it possible that when Jesus says "go and sin no more" that he is saying "go with God"?
    In whatever you do, know that God is with you and stay in union with God so nothing worse will happen.
    Let your actions show that God is with you and you are with God. I am not trying to minimize the statement at all, to me it makes it more powerful as there is an assurance to it.
    God has manifested himself in the humanity of Jesus and he uses his power to heal me and then says "go but stay with Me".

  2. Richard, I really like the point you are making about it being "forward looking" - And I kind of think that in these instances Jesus is saying "go and start living in freedom".  I guess if you see it this way, sin is bondage.  I know that probably needs a lot of unpacking...  but if sin is the stuff that bends and twists us and brings us and those around us pain, then "sin no more" begins to sound more like a blessing than a judgmental admonition!

  3. To your final point, I think Jesus has a pretty robust view of what is sinful in Mark.  As an aside, I believe this also includes homosexuality, as he includes adultery *as well as* "sexual immorality," which he likely means as what under the Law is prohibited.

    Mark 7:18-23  "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'?  For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")  He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.'  For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'"

  4. For Jesus, sin is...

    Twisting God's word, laws, and commandments to get out of being a decent person, or worse to justify your cruelty.

  5. For Jesus sin is...not recognizing that I am a sinner.

    Once a person accepts that fact, it is easier to have compassion on and forgive others of their imperfections.

    "Above all, love each other deeply.  Because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."  (1 Peter 4:8,9 - NIV)

    If we're saved (forgiven, freed, made whole and right with God) *for* any purpose, it's for this, I would think.  Helpmehelpmehelpmehelpme, Lord.  And thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.  Please let it be so.  ~Peace~

  6. "For Jesus sin is _______.  How that blank is filled in is what I'm most interested in."

    The pursuit and prosecution of that blank-filling guide is, I would suggest, the jumping off point for every religion.  The result is the world we see all around us.  The universal instinct to formulate such a blank-filling guide is what fascinates me, because it appears to be as strong as every other evolutionary urge we possess.

    To C. S. Lewis this was empirical proof of God.  I agree.  Beyond that, however, I have not yet been able to "evolve".

  7. Brenning Manning, quoting Thomas Merton says that our sin is being an imposter, trying to convince God and others that we are something that we are not. Both the cripple and the woman caught in adultery could be categorized as imposters. Don't you think?

  8. For my part I'd start filling in the blank using the Sermon on the Mount, the Greatest Commandments, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and Matthew 23 (the Woes) and 25 (Sheep and Goats).

  9. I would begin my list of "sins" thusly:  thinking that "a cripple" has volunteered for his/her disability for purposes of deception.

  10. I wonder if "sin no more" is not an exhortation, but rather, a command, like "come out of him, Satan".  Meaning that Jesus is not telling the guy "don't sin" as if he had a choice, but rather, "I'm not allowing anything you do in the future to be sin".

    It's a little out there, yes, true, but many things Jesus said were commands, maybe some were and didn't appear so.

  11. That could just refer to fornication.  He makes no comment anywhere as to *who* gets married, and I believe that God binds marriages.  So he could be saying "if I haven't married you, then you are sinning".  Which is a very, very different message than "homosexuality is evil".

  12. O.K. My problem is that the very voices I hear questioning "go and sin no more" don't read the Sermon on the Mount very carefully. There is still purity language--even sexual purity. There is taking the concern for careless words characteristic of Pharisees--and heightening it. Jesus' radical embrace of the Samaritan woman seemed (I think) to include a radical rejection of her current "marriage."

    It's not the fact that you are reading these texts as a guide to Jesus' ethics that scares me. It's the possibility that you are reading them selectively. There isn't really another text in the whole New Testament very much like Matthew 25--and I have seen it become the ONLY gospel for some progressives, just as John 3:16 used to be for conservatives.

    Meanwhile, do you care about Paul? Jesus was teaching a group of Jews with a fairly robust sexual-purity construct, which (in my opinion) he piggybacked on. The message of embracing sinners sorta presumes that everyone rightly knows that they are sinners; that the physicians came to help people who really are sick. Then Jesus turned his big guns on the people who weren't recognizing their own sins, and you get the Woes.

    But Paul, who crossed over to cultures more like ours, cultures that simply thought that any and all behavior (especially pleasure-seeking behavior) is fine, turned some of his big guns on sins of pleasure-seeking. Yet in light of some telling hints in the Sermon on the Mount, I think Paul was merely extending Jesus' Jewish-influenced ethic and clarifying it for a different context.

  13. I just realized I'm sounding combative toward you in these last two posts of yours, perhaps, so let me be a bit more confessional. I cannot even think of harming someone, offending the least of these, or turning aside from someone who is hungry without a huge neon sign going off in my head: JESUS CARES DEEPLY ABOUT THIS.

    But my daily temptations involve lying, lust, pornography, and the possibility of even worse pleasure-seeking behavior. Shoplifting from rich stores where my theft will not (clearly) harm any oppressed person, but only make me a worse person. You name it. And my neon sign is getting fuzzy. It's moving in the direction of, JESUS DOESN'T REALLY CARE IF YOU GIVE IN OR NOT.

    Richard, I promise, I am not some reactionary trying to lynch you for corrupting the youth. But I do worry that the subtle attack on traditional moral ethics as part of the Christian gospel, which you articulate better than anyone I know but which is all around me and within me, is corrupting ME--that I was a better person when I was a bit more of a legalist.

  14. Why would you think that Jesus intended unmarried sex under the phrase "sexual immorality"? Jesus makes no comment anywhere on unmarried sex.

    In other words, you miss the point that while Jesus certainly does not comment on who gets married. He also never comments on what sort of sex, exactly, is "sexual immorality." Because he doesn't comment on it, he either a) means nothing by using this word, b) means whatever we 21st century readers want to think about this word, or c) means what his 1st century Jewish audience would have understood by this word.

    I think only the third choice is likely. If he, in using a general phrase, can be assumed to have been referring to the standards of his day and culture, this could in turn imply a) that Jesus was fully endorsing those standards, or b) that Jesus was endorsing following the sexual standards of whatever culture we find ourselves in. If the first, then Jesus' remarks against sexual immorality do include a judgment on what 1st century Jews called sexual immorality rather than simply what we call sexual immorality--and that judgment would include unmarried sex, homosexual acts, and other sexual acts that all 1st century Jews considered immoral. If the second, then we may decide that in our culture "sexual immorality" does not include homosexual acts--but we may also decide that "sexual immorality" does not include unmarried sex. Jesus doesn't specifically stipulate either.

  15.  We don't know how long "afterward" is in verse 14.  We assume that it was maybe a few hours, but what if it were a few days and the man had been indulging in some kind of self-destructive behavior (whether sexual or not, as in the woman's case) and for Jesus, in these cases, that is the sin he is warning against?

  16. If you are in a lectionary church this week's reading answers that.  John 16:9 - [The paraclete convicts] concerning sin first because they do not believe in me. The only real sin in John's gospel is unbelief in Jesus.

  17. Let me rush to say that I haven't felt attacked by you in the least over these last few posts. You've not questioned my motives, sincerity, intelligence, or the legitimacy of the points I'm making. You've just asked questions about balance. Those are very, very legit.

    I think about this issue a lot. As someone who has written a book advocating for a vision of radical hospitality I have to ponder criticisms and ways I might be overreaching.

    I have no great answers (who does?), but I do want to point out that in the post above I do say I think there needs to be a dialectic between "neither do I condemn you" and "go and sin no more." Lean too far toward "neither do I condemn you" and you get one set of problems (those you're pointing out) but lean too far toward "go and sin no more" and we get another set of problems (those I often point out). So, yes, we need to keep some sort of balance.

    The issues, I think, go to how, in practice, that balance is to be achieved. I think the best route forward is the one you've given here: a confessional, intimate, face to face approach. Things get out of hand when we start dealing with public denunciations of hedonistic excess. It's one thing to decry pornography, another to help a friend stay away from it. It's one thing to denounce drug use, but another to help a friend stay clean. It's one thing to denounce homosexuality, but another to walk alongside the friend who just came out to you.

    For me, the balance is found in keeping it all person to person and interpersonal.

  18. It's usually assumed that the woman who washes Jesus's feet is a sexual sinner of some sort, but I don't think there's anything in the text itself to justify that. She's just described as having sinned greatly. Given that she's rich enough to own a jar of perfume worth a year's wages, I think it's far more likely that she's a member of the oppressive rich class Jesus preached against. It's why the disciples fall over each other to recite Jesus's standard command to a repentant rich person: "Goandsellallyourthingsandgivethemoneytothepoor!" But Jesus tells them it's okay. She understands. She understands better than they do.

    One thing I'm curious about--when the evangelists pair "tax collectors and prostitutes," are they representing two different classes of sinner that Jesus specifically sought out, or is it because tax collectors always had hookers at their parties, and that was the kind of social circle Jesus moved in?

  19. I love how you personalize this. From my observations, those who get angry and shake fists at groups and at "big sins" being condoned or overlooked are the kinds of people who can't handle anything personal, and certainly can't stand to have their own wrongs pointed out. For instance, if one of their own kids "messes up" by their definition (and that can be as little as simply standing up for themselves against false accusations) the reaction is the opposite of the prodigal son's father. It's a reaction of shaming and condemnation, sending away, turning others against them and there's no way to restore relationship. Much like the pharisees.

  20. For Jesus sin is anything done while not walking on water. He wants us to walk with him (i.e. Fulfil the law), not to tread water (i.e. merely obeying the law) or sink (breaking the law). I dont have time to expound on this now, but just let it marinate.

  21. I must confess that on this one I am relying on an "argument from authority" - or what would be considered such if I had any intention of debating.  For me Jesus is not the first century entity - Jesus is the totality of the entity that exists now, of which the human aspect is that of which we have a written record of.  The reason I say this is because I have heard firsthand how he feels about this.

    I know someone who had some marital problems.  Specifically, this person had a husband who was suspected to be secretly gay.  A certain amount of time having passed in the marriage, and two children (now adult) having been produced from it.  This person was struggling pretty hard with the idea that she could leave her husband and still be OK with God (there was a controlling cult involved throughout most of the marriage which would have frowned pretty hard on this).

    One day she asked God whether she was truly married to him, and the answer came back, clear as day:  "Of course not, I would never bind a lie!"  And she left him, and has been happier ever since.

    This has colored how I see marriage (from a Christian and spiritual aspect) ever since because it's very powerful.  In my view, what it tells me is that God binds marriages.  What God binds is married, what he does not bind is not.  And I am not necessarily saying what sexual immorality is necessarily, that's not really the point of what I'm trying to say, but I AM trying to say that from God's point of view, when God binds two people in love, anything they do with each other is clean and pure (let the marriage bed not be defiled).  And when he does not, there is really no way to redeem it spiritually.  To me that's the definition of sexual immorality.  What may have been said in the first century, what the societal morals were in the first century, is an interesting aside, but pretty immaterial if we are trying in the present age to live in a "holy" manner.

    I feel that sometimes we get too stuck on what Jesus said and don't pay enough attention to what he's saying right now.  Is he alive now or isn't he?  Why not just ask him and see what kind of answer we get?

  22. ... blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. Mark 3:29 and Luke 12:10. Since the work of the Holy Spirit in the individual is to "guide into all truth", blaspheming against the truth would be like mockery, distortion, willful deaf-blindness. Sin would not be the only thing holding back the in-breaking of the Kingdom, just what we should know better than to do.

    I really like "go and sin no more" as a simple blessing of dismissal.  Not so different than "God be w'ye", but better.

  23. I think it's all just about loving people. I think Christians often get trapped into talking about some prototypical rebellious sinner that doesn't exist or isn't as frequent as hellfire and brimstone preachers like to believe. Sin, as I understand it, tends toward self-destruction and toward spiritual dryness. And if that's the case most people already know, way before we show up, that they are hurting themselves or are unhappy. I don't need a preacher to tell me I'm a screw up. I'm aware. And I think most people are. So what we need is just someone to come alongside and say, "How can I help?"

  24. Exactly. Notice where groups gang up on one person, they make sure it's a no-win situation for that person. Jesus always came alongside, rather than standing behind a wagging, pointing finger.

  25. Now you're preaching. And this is why I see an exquisite beauty in a story where Jesus, after confronting a woman's violent and hypocritical accusers, after proving that he doesn't condemn the adulterer, after freeing her from any sort of judgment, also confronts her own knowledge of the sinfulness of her own behavior: go and sin no more.

    Nowhere else do I see the balance quite as clearly and beautifully as I do in this story. So I guess it hit a nerve when I hear it suggested that the primary thrust of this story might be to overdo the balance on the "moralism" side--especially from someone who seemed to be overdoing the balance on the other side.

    Just so you know, I think that my main visceral reaction against all pro-gay arguments I've run into is that the logic they are framed in ("Jesus doesn't care about sex," "anything we do in love is good," "if God made you with desires you shouldn't fight the desires," "you should individualistically decide what is right rather than submitting to Scripture or community," etc., etc.) undo the personal work that I and my friends are doing to help one another with practical issues like pornography and unfaithfulness. I could care less about the "prototypical rebellious" homosexual sinner. But I sure care a lot about someone who doesn't want to submit his sexuality to God, and wants to make a lot of excuses about it. And I do think the wider rhetoric we use trickles down to the daily decisions of people like me.

  26. "you should individualistically decide what is right rather than submitting to Scripture or community,"
    I see both as powers and principalities.  Why should I submit to them?

  27. I think the two stories intersect at this:
    The man at the pool says "I have no man", the woman taken in adultery would say "I have a man".
    In both instances, having a "man" is the operative in dealing with our human issues, whether physical or emotional or spiritual.
    Our fulfillment and healing, whether physical or spiritual/emotional is ultimately in God. The reliance and trust in "man" to fill the place only God can fill is sin.

  28. I see what you are saying Sam. I was not saying that his "crippledness" was his idea but that we are all imposters in some sense. A cripple no less than a whore.

  29. You shouldn't, if you view Scripture and community as powers and principalities. This is an honorable and consistent position, and I wish you well in it. I even wish you well if you think Jesus shares your view of Scripture and community.

    But please forgive me if I wonder why you would think you have anything to say when the community of Christians attempts to discuss faithful ways of learning from that community's Scripture. You may try to persuade us to abandon that project; we may try to persuade you to join it.

    But, given the assumptions you've just described, you are not trying to do what we are trying to do. I don't see how you can help us do it better. Feel free, however, to protest what we are doing any time you wish!

  30. Fine. If you are interesting in listening to Jesus, apart from any accountability to Jesus' words as preserved in the writings, or Jesus' people as defined by the historic church, that is fine. It is also fine if I, personally, do not wish to call the voice you are listening to "Jesus."

    Yes, Jesus is alive. I have asked him. So far, he has told me to listen to the church and to reflect on Scripture, and not to listen to those whose individualistic opinions (usually self-justifying, and assuming that happiness is the highest goal) determines morality. So far, he has told me to share the wisdom from the Scriptures, in case that any who are interested in learning from it will learn. For me, that has included caring about what Scriptures actually mean, when people choose to have that discussion. It also means being very open to hear what other people say, when they really care about what the words of Scripture mean--not so much when they don't.

  31. I was going to reply to your other post, but there seems to be a nesting limit, so I'm going to reply here, and also address what you're saying here, too.  I come to this site because Richard's idea of death, and the powers and principalities, strikes a very deep chord in me and I think he's very spot on with, for example, his "The slavery of death" series.  I find a great deal of good to take away from Richard's posts, but generally don't comment because, you're right, I am trying to accomplish something in my life that's slightly different than most here are trying to accomplish.  I find engaging in discussion to be useful though - in fact, this discussion has helped to clarify something for me.  Probably not what most would *like* for it to clarify, but it did anyway.  Namely, the idea that since Christianity states that Jesus is alive, either he is supreme over the bible or the religion is a sham.  That's something that wasn't as clear to me this morning.  So thanks for that.

    I think the scripture and church does serve a purpose.  in fact, I am starting to wonder if there are different aspects of God for different types of people.  I wonder if there's a religion-based aspect for those that will thrive under that kind of system, and if there's a spirit-based aspect for those that find it uncomfortable or even terrifying.  I certainly come under the latter.  It certainly doesn't serve a purpose for *me*, though.  But, as I stated, Richard has some extremely insightful things to say - I wonder if he even realizes quite how insightful they are. :) I hope he does.  In that respect, Richard and I agree on much more than we disagree, and I'm hoping that those here have a suitably enough open mind to at least not consider me "of the devil", etc.  I don't consider you "of the devil" - I just am not led completely in the same direction.

    All that said, Richard pretty much ignored my earlier question on this topic - perhaps he feels the same as you, and that's fine - but I do wonder how the "slavery of death" - which rings very, very true for me and has helped to shape my opinions on it - has to do with Jesus as a way out.  This is something I don't understand and every time I try to figure it out my brain just kind of shuts down.  It doesn't make any sense to me.  The primacy of scripture, inerrancy, all that - to me it's kind of nonsense.  I wish that there was a way to explain it to me logically, in a way that I can understand - I would be more than happy to listen.  But so far all I hear is mumbo jumbo and logical leaps that I just can't follow.  And every time I try, I get the impression of something like "that's not for you - I have different plans for you."  Which is not compatible with the beliefs of almost everyone that shares even 95% of what I do believe.  A very lonely life with lots of struggle, in many ways, I guess.  But then, that's slavery to death, too.

    Sorry if it didn't make much sense.  I try to but it's difficult because my brain is just wired differently and I can't seem to describe it in ways that many others can identify with.

  32. I like your honesty here--helps to know where you're coming from. BTW, nobody on this site is talking about the primacy or inerrancy of Scripture. For me it is a simple choice: do I accept wisdom from outside myself, or only trust my own judgment/ thoughts? Ad if I accept wisdom from outside myself, where do I look for that wisdom--in literature of the past as well as communities of the present? And if Jesus really matters, he matters through these literatures and communities.

    That's why I'm so impatient--probably overly impatient--with anybody whose positions seem, TO ME, to simply reduce to: "What I think/ feel/ want is the end-all and be-all of life." I have no interest in a religion that I make up for myself or that you make up for yourself. But good luck, and if at some point you find yourself able to submit to the wisdom of others, I think that most Christians read the Bible in very gracious, life-giving ways.

  33. Many Christians I have come in contact with - most, in fact - I find to be judgmental, willfully ignorant, and incapable of any kind of critical thought.  I won't even engage with them, so it says something that I'm even posting here.  And make no mistake, I haven't renounced Jesus or any such, I'm just not willing to "toe the party line", as it were and accept things that others are telling me that I find to not be true - or at least be suspect.  I have questions, I haven't found suitable answers, and I'm not going to make things up just to make the majority happy.  Richard has helped me to understand maybe half of the equation (an important half, but still only half).  The other half is as muddy as ever.  But thanks for engaging, anyway.

  34. We know the man has been lame 38 years.  We're not informed what caused the lameness in the first place, most likely because it is irrelevant to the principal point of the story.  Suppose for the sake of nothing better to do (not a good reason, I know). that the man had been lamed by the authorities--popped with a few stones or something--for a crime committed.  Or suppose he had imbibed a bit too much at a wedding feast, fallen down a fight of stairs, and broken a hip.  There's the possibility of lameness from birth, but the story doesn't read that way to me.  In both of these "supposes" cause and effect don't require divine intervention, and Jesus' advice would be perfectly reasonable.

  35. Yes! It is like saying "be warm and well fed" to the person lacking the basic necessities of life, but doing nothing to meet their need.
    To condemn the sinner, the "screw up" but offer no help, no compassion on the journey to wholeness, but only condemn them from a place of self-righteous piety is useless.

  36. Very good points, I hadn't thought of the case of Herod and Herodias.  I feel like there is still going to be a lot of ambiguity and difficult discernment that can't be avoided given the great discrepancy in time/place/culture/etc between then and now. And I think on some level we all use that ambiguity to make room for our own conscience and experiences, and that can be a very good thing. I do agree that we should approach the text in a way that's open and humble.

  37. I agree with you: Jesus did not have a mechanistic, peri-exilic, “sore-for-sin” concept of theodicy, but that was one of the innovations of his moral philosophy. I think we should remember that an understanding of disease as a symptom of sin was part of his culture and religion. He was steeped in it, he thought in those terms, and he used them – and he did not deny the connection between the ill of the body and the ill of the heart, which is sin. There is nothing wrong with that language if, like much of the scriptural language, we read it for its meaning more than for its fact. This is the connection we are rediscovering now, in this culture. Time and again the Gospel narrative brings together the renewal of the body and that of the spirit – the clean slate, as you said, which begins with forgiveness. One who is forgiven lets go of the darkness and contamination, restores balance and unity with God and self, and begins anew – righteous and healthy. This is the imagery, and the examples tend to be metaphorically dramatic: the blind who see, the lame who walk, the bleeding who bleed no more, the rotting flesh made whole. Coming back to God is coming back to life. So the “sin” against which Jesus admonishes the formally blind doesn’t have to be specific. “Sin” is the sinful condition, the alienation from the harmony for which this world had been created. “Sin no more” might well mean more or less “Go with God.” The rhetoric of the time.
    On a more general note, I’ve just discovered your blog and greatly appreciate it. I’ll be back regularly. Thank you very much.
    My site has some similarities to yours: it’s mainly a blog on theology, mysticism, and a personal journey of conversion, but it features also some fiction, some poetry, and brief daily thoughts. Http://onmounthoreb.com

  38. ...spiritual sickness.

    I will stick with the Fathers and Mothers of the church as expressed in Orthodox teaching. There is a distinction between the nature of "sin" and specific "sins." In so much of Christianity there is a reduction of "sin" to "sins" of the moralistic type. We narrow the scope of the issue to specific behaviors that break specific commands in the Bible. That's the problem with sexual sin and the problem with the seeming absence in this text of specific "sins." So what do we make of the sickness of this man? Is sickness part of the way that God intends human nature to be?

    For the Orthodox sin is a sickness and union with God is the cure.

    This understanding of sin as "missing the mark" lends a lot of weight to what is really happening in both texts of John. Both have a sinful nature that produces behaviors that pull them away from God. Jesus is in their midst as the perfect human totally united with God. His very presence is what that healed union looks like and is. Following that sinful nature leads to further disunion with God and leads to a problem even worse that being lame for 38 years. Life totally separated from God is to accept Jesus as dead and not raised from the dead. That's a pretty harsh hell to live in.

  39. For Jesus, sin is something a child can deal with easier than a rational(izing) adult.

  40. For Jesus, sin is ...

    ... a departure from His own nature. He wants us to have His nature, the personality of His Father, the holiness of His Spirit. He wants us to be perfect, even as our heavenly Father is perfect. He believes that we deserve a perfect example, so He is one. He doesn't want us to aim lower; shoot for less; be less.

    God is love. God is spirit; we must worship Him in spirit and in truth as living sacrifices, selfless to the core, transformed by the renewing of the mind -- all in view of His mercy.

    It really doesn't matter what kind of sin we sin -- sexual, violent, secret, inner -- all of those sins focus on self and one's own desires rather than the desire for the good of others and the goodness of God.

  41. The man with the physical disability invited a demonic spirit into him, as we do that when we sin. That is why Jesus told him to "Sin No More" as this is what sin does to us. The Holy Spirit is telling me this same thing and Christians are rebelling as the Anti-Christ has gotten sly in his maneuvers to use Gods love against him in his churches. The people that know God know the fear of the Lord. Those that are lied to do not and are worshipping the false Christ. To answer your question.... "To Jesus, sin is not loving him!"

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