"Jesus said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, sir." Jesus said, "Neither do I. Go, and sin no more.'" — John 8:10-11
One day my Italian Catholic aunties were sitting around the kitchen table counting up all the babies they'd had, one after another. They spoke about how desperate they'd felt as young women, hemmed in by dirty diapers, boiled bottles, sleepless nights.
Suddenly, the oldest confessed she'd contemplated using birth control.
The aunties were aghast, "But the pope said it was a sin!"
At the sink washing dishes, my grandmother broke in. "Of course he said it," she soothed, "but he didn't really mean it!"
Jesus said to the woman, "Go, and sin no more." He expected her to try, and I think she did. But you know she sinned again. Maybe not adultery, but in other ways. Nobody resists the undertow of human weakness for long, not even people who've been personally rescued from judgmental stone throwers by Jesus.
Jesus knew that. Even as he helped her up, refused to condemn her, admonished her, and let her go, he knew. Even as she, spared from death, resolved to be good, he knew. He knew then and he knows now just how soon after every rescue and every resolution we'll need him to be impossibly kind to us again.
And he will be, without fail.
'Go and sin no more.' Of course Jesus said it, but if my grandmother were here, she'd tell you he didn't really mean it. "Not really meaning it' is the difference between a savior you can love and a stone thrower who'd rather see you dead than imperfect.
Jesus, Savior, Son of God, have mercy on us.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.