The religious leaders had caught a woman in the very act of adultery. They brought her to Jesus, reminding Him that the law stated she deserved to die.
Yet Jesus knew they were also sinners and hard-hearted men who lacked compassion and mercy for others. He also recognized that they were trying to trap Him into making a mistake so they could condemn and discredit Him. The woman was merely a tool they were using for this purpose.
Jesus refused to take the bait. He told them that yes, they could stone her to death—and whoever was innocent among them should throw the first stone. After Jesus said this, they all slunk away, condemned by their own consciences. He then turned His attention to the fearful woman. He asked her if anyone were still accusing her, and she said no. Jesus responded: "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more" (John 8:3-11, emphasis added).
Many who have violated God's laws of sexual conduct have come to see the kind of damage such sins have brought on themselves and others. They rightfully wonder what they can do next. Jesus' words provide clear direction.
This event may have been a life-changing experience for the woman. Here was a man who was interested in salvaging her life rather than using and abusing her. Essentially, Jesus told her that if she made a clean break from her past sexual sins she would be completely forgiven.
This is the essence of what the Bible calls repentance—to recognize our sinful ways, to determine to leave that sinful life and, with God's help, to change, to replace our greedy, selfish nature with a godly nature focused on obedience to Him.
Some believe that sexual immorality is less forgivable than other sins. This is not true. God forgives every sin upon repentance. Jesus, as the Son of God, had authority to tell the woman she could be completely forgiven. As the Son of Man, He provided compassionate understanding and support.
Upon repentance, we should also strive to forgive ourselves so that guilt regarding past sexual sins doesn't carry forward in a negative attitude towards God's gift of sex and jeopardize a happy, joyful, loving intimate relationship in marriage.
Once forgiven, we need to see ourselves as God sees us. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that "some of you" were formerly "fornicators, ... adulterers,... homosexuals, [and] sodomites," but they had been washed and sanctified—made holy—through the forgiveness made possible by Jesus' sacrifice and God's Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Though some physical penalties may have persisted, the spiritual penalty of their sins was completely removed.
If you have made past mistakes, rest assured that God will clear your record if you seek Him in heartfelt repentance. He promises us that, "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18).
To learn more about repentance and overcoming guilt and sin, please request our free booklet Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion. GN