A married man was having an affair with his secretary. One day they went to her place and made love all afternoon. Later that evening the man hurriedly dressed and told his lover to take his shoes outside and rub them in the grass and dirt.
He put on his shoes and drove home.
"Where have you been?" his wife demanded.
"I can't lie to you," he replied, "I'm having an affair with my secretary."
She looked down at his shoes and said: "You're lying to me! You've been playing golf!"
Adultery is no laughing matter, of course, although these days it is so common that it has become the subject of jokes. Many years ago adultery was a very serious matter indeed.
We all know the story when the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught committing adultery.
According to Jewish law she had to be stoned to death for that sin. We’re told in the Gospel of John that Jesus wrote in the sand with His finger. We’re not told what He wrote. I guess He wrote, ‘Dear God … will they never learn?’
But that’s not important; what is important is that after He said let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone, and when they all left one by one, Jesus turned to the woman and asked ‘Is there no one left to condemn you?’
She said ‘No one …’
And Jesus replied ‘I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.’
Now Jesus did not mean do not sin any sin whatsoever ever again for the rest of your life!
He knew that that is impossible. The woman was human, and it is natural that she would sin again. Jesus knows our human nature and He knows that we are liable to sin again and again …
What Jesus said to the woman is, do not commit that particular sin again … it is serious enough to get you into a lot of trouble with the Pharisees as well as with God Himself.
And that’s what Jesus is saying to us today.
He knows we are weak … He knows that we will sin … By saying ‘do not sin again’ Jesus is warning us to beware of those particular sins which are serious enough to lead us into damnation, and into an eternity of exclusion from our Father in Heaven.
In our propensity to sin, God is loving and caring enough to forgive us again and again.
When we confess our sins to God there should also be remorse and guilt for what we have done. Confession should not be just a laborious recitation of the same old sins; and a futile exercise which serves no one and certainly does not fool God Himself.
Without true remorse, and a genuine resolve not to repeat our sins; then confession means nothing. And it would be better not to confess or repent at all. At least that is honest in the eyes of God.
Now when God has forgiven us that should be the end of the matter. He does not keep a little black book in which He writes what we have done and reminds us again and again when we sin again. He knows that our weakness will overcome us; and what He asks is that we at least try not to repeat our sins again. Certainly so for the more serious ones; like adultery for instance.
However, often, our human nature is less forgiving than God's nature. With an honest repentance we are certainly forgiven by God but not by us. We feel we are not forgiven. We feel so ashamed of our sin that we do not forgive ourselves and we torture ourselves by re-calling our sins in our mind and feel unforgiven.
Our inner voice tells us we are unforgiven and reproaches us for what we have done. In some cases this is to such an extent that it stops us moving forward with our lives and hinders our progress towards a loving God waiting to hug us with open arms.
Such a reaction to sin may indeed be a natural human emotion, but it is wrong. It is like slapping God's face and saying that we do not accept His forgiveness or that His forgiveness was wrong. And that itself is another sin on our conscience.
We must learn, and indeed accept, that once God has forgiven us that should be the end of it. And not carry the sense of guilt with us for ever more. Let us move on freely and with a resolve not to sin that particular sin again.