Imagine the scenario. The scribes and Pharisees drag a woman caught in adultery before Jesus, expecting Him to put His stamp of approval on their desire to stone her to death according to the Mosaic Law (John 8:1-11). Jesus then stoops down and writes on the ground. One by one the accusers all leave, and there stands the woman. Both relieved and somewhat bewildered, she looks at Jesus while wondering what will happen next.
Standing to His feet, the Son of God says, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus says, “I do not condemn you, either. The age of grace is upon us, feel free to go and sin some more.”
With all of His love and compassion, we never find Jesus dismissing or embracing sinful actions. Instead, He extends mercy in order to help people move beyond their sin. The Messiah’s mission was redemptive in every way.
In the Western church, God’s grace is often defined as “unmerited favor” and unmerited favor alone. This simply isn’t true, because in the Scriptures, grace has multiple dimensions (1 Peter 4:10). But even if grace were limited to God’s unearned favor, Jesus can never be characterized as a one-dimensional bestower of grace.
The apostle John—the disciple who got closer to Jesus than any other—wrote the following:
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:14-17 (NASB)
John identified Jesus as being “full of grace and truth.” This means that Jesus is characterized by truth every bit as much as by grace.
In its essence, truth is nothing more than an expression of reality. Truth is not an idea, nor an ideal; it is simply reality revealed. The fact that Jesus was full of truth as well as grace means that He spoke and modeled a perfect representation of Heaven’s reality.
As much as we struggle to accept the idea of absolute truth (reality), I think that, deep down, most of us want such a thing to exist. Without truth there can be no trust, no security, and no justice. And without trust, security, and justice, we are all lost.
The combination of grace and truth, then, is profound. Truth calls us to conform to God’s reality (“Go and sin no more.”) while grace provides both the opportunity and the power for us to do so.
Through the coming of the Son of God, who was full of both grace and truth, we find a powerful message that essentially says, “I love you so much that I want the absolute best for your life. I want to lift you out of the commonality and corruption that characterize sinful human existence, and I am giving you everything you need to walk with Me and live on a heavenly level.
Once again, we see the unique character of Jesus Christ. He wasn’t just full of grace, and He wasn’t just full of truth. He didn’t condemn people for their sins, nor did He give them a license to sin. Instead, the Son of God called sinners into account while enabling them to live like saints.
“Go and sin some more.” It may be a message that some of us want to hear, but we won’t hear it from the Son of God.
Bob Santos is the author of The Divine Progression of Grace – Blazing a Trail to Fruitful Living.
Wood carving by Gustave Doré; digital file provided by Rev. Felix Just, S.J., at http://catholic-resources.org