One-Two Punch — Go and Sin No More…
When I was a boy, I loved to watch boxing with my father. Observing Muhammad Ali, “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” was both exciting and artistic. It was like watching a dance of power and light footedness, all at the same time. Sugar Ray Leonard was also an awe inspiring boxer we really enjoyed watching. The artistry of their application of the sport was the key to our enjoyment. The way that in their calm athletic demeanor, they could lure in their opponent, and then show them real power in a combination of blows, excited the mind and gave a burst of adrenaline as if I were in the ring right there with them.
Watching these titans of the boxing ring stirred my interest, and helped me to hone my own fighting skills, which I used in self-defense very well, but I am grateful to have found a better way. Although I never formally fought in the ring, I did have the opportunity to coach and mentor young boxers while serving with the Sanger Police Youth Activities League. I think that I learned a lot more from those boys than I ever taught them, but I was satisfied to hold the bag and help in sparring practice. They were good boys, trying to make a better life for themselves, and boxing was one way to do that.
Since my youth I have been moved by the account of the woman who was taken in adultery and brought to Jesus by hypocrites for the purpose of trapping Him. In this we see that the Savior could not be trapped, and that He had a well of wisdom and compassion more profound than all the Earth.
The woman was brought to Him in the temple and her accusers sought for Jesus to cast judgment upon her. There was irony in their lustful desire to stone her for adultery. They stood ready, rocks in hand, to execute her. They reasoned that if He judged her sin to be worthy of stoning that would seem to conflict with all of His teachings of love, mercy and forgiveness. On the other hand, if His judgement was to grant her pardon, that would conflict with the law of Moses. The scribes and the Pharisees thought they had Him trapped. They did not. I love the telling of the New Testament story in the Book of John.
“And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto Him, ‘Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou?’ This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not.”
This is fascinating. These opponents of righteousness bring this woman to Him in the midst of His teaching, as to place her in the center of a ring to distract Him from His work, and cause Him to falter, but He goes about His business as if they are not even there.
“So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.’ And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground.”
“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”
He delivers a crippling blow to those who would cast stones, and then goes about the real purpose of His presence in the great arena of His purpose, to bring about true repentance that all might receive forgiveness and find eternal life.
“When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?’ She said, ‘No man, Lord.’ And Jesus said unto her, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more’” (John 8:2-11).
To me this scene in scripture is so exciting and rife with anticipation. These brutes bring this woman, stones in hand thirsting for blood, ready to kill her and entrap Him, and the Savior both figuratively and then literally disarms them. First He completely frustrates them by calmly ignoring them, which one can imagine was emotionally disarming, as He knocked them off their momentum. When in heightened frustration they continue to state their case, He calmly rises and simply states, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” He then calmly returns to ignoring them as if they are not even present.
If this was a boxing analogy we would call this the one-two punch — (One-two punch [noun]: A combination of two blows delivered in rapid succession in boxing, especially a left lead followed by a right cross. Informal An especially forceful or effective combination or sequence of two things.) Now this is a good time to quote Muhammad Ali, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.”
Never seeing what was coming, those scribes and Pharisees literally disarmed themselves, when in shame, if they had any, they slunk away, once again foiled by the wisdom of the Greatest of us all.
Yet there is still another lesson here that cannot be ignored. When they had gone, Jesus looked upon the woman and asked, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?”
She gratefully responded to her Savior, “No man, Lord.”
And Jesus tenderly responded to her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
There are ever growing communities of people that would like to dismiss the Law of Chastity and portray sexual sin as no sin at all. They like to say, “What would Jesus do?” and then use Jesus’ supposed forgiveness of the unrepentant adulterous woman to justify premarital sexuality and adultery as being outmoded rules of an earlier era, for which people should not be held accountable today. They could not be more wrong.
The Lord still does not look upon sin with the least degree of levity, but as seriously as the day Godly decrees were made. Adultery and other violations of the Law of Chastity are serious and require complete repentance for forgiveness to be granted. While we must look upon the sinner with love and compassion, condemn them not. We cannot in any way excuse the sin as being acceptable in any degree or under any circumstance, nor allow modern ideas to prevail against God’s sacred laws.
Elder Dale G. Renlund taught, “Surely, the Savior did not condone adultery. But He also did not condemn the woman. He encouraged her to reform her life. She was motivated to change because of His compassion and mercy” (General Conference, April 2017).
While the Lord Jesus Christ has the power to forgive, and did so on several confirmed occasions, as near as I can deduce from the reading, He did not forgive the woman of her sins on this occasion. He simply acted with compassion and said to her that He did not condemn her either. Then He commanded her that she should “go, and sin no more.”
Of the woman, due to continuing revelation, we know this much, that “…the woman glorified God from that hour, and believed on His name.” She was not forgiven at that hour, but we can assume by scripture and rejoice that she did repent, found forgiveness, and that she became a worthy disciple of Jesus Christ.
It is imperative that we understand that while we hold compassion for each other as we fall in sin, and we work together that we may repent and receive forgiveness, sin, including and especially in the case of those violations that fall under the law of chastity, are still a violation of God’s laws today. Such should be considered with the greatest of seriousness. The law of chastity and other immutable laws are not outmoded in the modern era, and God will not hold those guiltless who violate this law and do not repent.
Nevertheless it is not our place to condemn, but ours to facilitate and provide way for the repentance and forgiveness of all we sinners. May we be the last to ever consider picking up a stone, but instead reaching out a kind hand that we might all find our way to that Savior who is the Greatest of all who ever stepped foot in the eternal arena. Let us all follow the counsel of the Lord, as did the woman, and “go and sin no more.” In that we will find peace, forgiveness, and life eternal. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.