What motivates a person to not sin? What is it that will cause a person to pursue holiness and to sin no more? Fear? Guilt? Obligation to rules given?
A story in John 8 gives us great insight into the one thing that will truly cause a person to go and walk away from sin.
The scene was something you’d see in a movie. A mob of angry men gathered together in town, furious and out for blood. Together they yelled and shouted, each person building off of the emotion of the next. To where at any moment it seemed something was about to break and violence would erupt.
And in the midst of this mob, one could barely make out, a terrified woman, wrapped only in a sheet, lying in the dirt as this mob of men encircled her, breathing violence and death. And one by one, each man picked up stones, ready to hurl them at this woman over and over again until she died from the impact of the stones.
You see, this woman had been caught in the very act of adultery. She was literally pulled from the bed of a man who was not her husband. In the Jewish Law, this woman was to be punished for her crime, for her sin, by being stoned to death. And there was no doubt, she was guilty. She had sinned and was judged and found guilty by the men who surrounded her, punishable by death.
Now these men wanted to see how Jesus would respond, ultimately hoping he would stand by the written law and judge this woman to death or forsake the law of his heritage. And so they asked him, “Jesus, what do you say? Stone her, or let her off the hook?”
Jesus responded in John 8:7, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” You see what Jesus was saying, was that according to God’s law, the wages of sin, any and every sin, is death (Romans 6:23). So if they had ever sinned, then they too were guilty of the same punishment. The only person who was allowed to stand above this woman and condemn her to death was one who had never sinned.
As this truth hit home that they too were guilty of sin and to be condemned, one by one they put down their stones and walked away. How could they condemn her when they too were guilty of sin. And so they all left.
Yet one remained. One person remained there, in the position to condemn this woman. JESUS. Jesus alone remained in the position to judge and condemn her, because he had never sinned. And so He had the right to condemn this woman for her sin and sentence her to death.
But what He did next is simply amazing. As the one who was righteous to condemn this guilty woman, Jesus walked over to her, picked her up out of the dirt, wiped her tears away from her eyes, and with unconditional love said, “I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
What motivates someone who is guilty to turn away from sin and go and sin no more? When the One who has the right to condemn chooses rather to look in our eyes and say, “I do not condemn you.” It’s the love of Christ for me, a sinner, that motivates me to pursue holiness and flee from sin. Be motivated by the love of Christ.