”Go, and Sin No More” has nothing to do with sex and a lot to do with renaissance

October 20, 2022

Go and Sin No More

There is a very famous story in the Bible about a woman caught in adultery. Whether religious or not, this particular story has influenced your life because it profoundly shapes our culture. It also has much to teach us about how we develop a renaissance in our communities.

One day religious zealots come running to Jesus, screaming hysterically and pulling a woman behind them. They had caught the woman having sex with a man she wasn’t married to, and per the law, they wanted her stoned to death. Stoning requires that the crowd surrounding them pick up rocks and hurl them at this woman until her body suffers so much trauma it kills her. By demanding the punishment of stoning, the religious leaders are asking the very neighbours and friends in the community that the woman had probably spent her entire life to participate in her execution. Ironically, the religious leaders wouldn’t join in the stoning because it was against the rules of their religious order. Jesus, who wouldn’t even stand up from the ground where he was sitting, tells them, “Whoever is without sin can throw the first stone,” and then goes back to drawing with a stick on the ground. 

First, Jesus’ response is a master class in de-escalating a mob. No one knew how to respond to his words, and eventually, the awkward silence caused everyone to slink away. When no one was left but Jesus and the woman, Jesus looked up from drawing in the dirt and said, “go, and sin no more.”

Those five little words have been used as the rebar in the concrete foundations of patriarchy ever since. They influence sexual politics, reproductive rights, the institutional policing of women’s bodies, and divorce law. There isn’t a person on earth whose life isn’t affected by those words. This Biblical story is the backbone of the theology of sexual sin- a theology wielded as an offensive weapon for centuries.

But what if “go, and sin no more” had nothing to do with sex?

When Jesus said these words to this poor, traumatised woman, I think he could care less about the sex. I think his only thought was for the priceless reflection of the divine that lived in her. Adulterous relationships are not healthy relationships. During that time of history, the power dynamics would have also been wildly unbalanced. She was risking her life for a man who let her be dragged away to be horrifically killed. I imagine she believed that her life did not hold much value. But Jesus saw in her something worth so much more than that.

I don’t think Jesus was telling her to stop having unholy, unsanctified sex. When he said, “go and sin no more”, he was saying “, stop hurting and abusing the divine within you”. In common vernacular, it might have sounded more like, “girlfriend, you are worth so much more than this.” The sin wasn’t the sex; it was the devaluing and abuse of the holy divinity that lived in her. 

Each of us carries a reflection of the divine that is singularly ours. Renaissance is the collective outworking of the inward divinity that we all possess. But how often do we ignore, abuse, and devalue our divinity for cheap belonging? It wasn’t only the woman pulled before the crowds whose divinity was tarnished that day. The religious zealots were willing to kill another soul for power. The mob were willing to participate in executing a friend for the feeling of safety that comes with belonging. Mr Bosa Nova, who was also caught with his pants down, was willing to let a woman be humiliated and traumatised, all while he kept his safety and anonymity. Sex, even adulterous sex, was the least problematic event of the day. Everyone who walked away received the same message from Jesus. “Go, and sin no more.” Or in other words, “you are worth so much more than this.” 

So, I ask you, a beautiful container of the divine, how are you nurturing the inexplicable holiness that resides in you? How are you treasuring the revelation of the divine that abides in those around you? It is through this gentle nurturing of ourselves and others that renaissance grows.

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