“And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’ ” (John 8:11).
IN THE STORY OF THE WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY, JESUS DID NOT MINIMIZE THE SERIOUSNESS OF HER SIN, BUT HE SAW IN HER MORE THAN A WOMAN WHO HAD SINNED. Where others may have only seen problems, Jesus saw possibilities. He encouraged her not to reach backward to what she had been but to reach forward to what she could be. “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
In our dealings with others, most of us see the importance of doing what Jesus did: we know the value of helping people to see their own potential. When people know we have positive expectations of them, they very often rise to meet those expectations.
Why is it, then, that we so rarely “believe the best” in ourselves? Why do we focus on our problems so exclusively that we lose sight of our possibilities? We defeat ourselves just as surely as we defeat others when we do this. How much better it would be if we saw ourselves as someone worth salvaging, someone for whom the Lord was willing to die. No matter how serious our sin, would not Jesus say the same thing to us: “Go and sin no more”?
Painful memories can be helpful if they humble us and make us more compassionate toward others. But there is a difference between being humbled and being humiliated. If our memories drag us so far down into the black pit of despair that we quit reaching forward to heaven, then we’ve let our memories do something that God never intended. Even after forgiving us, God is still aware of our past, and we should remain aware of it too. But although our past is a part of the truth about us, it is not the whole truth. If we’ve been forgiven, that is also a part of the truth, not to mention the truth of what our future can be with God’s help. That is the part of the situation that God is most interested in. So we need to adopt His perspective on our lives. We need to be concerned not only with where we’ve been but with where we can go.
So the crucial question is never “What have I done?” but “What does God have in mind for me in the future?” And more important, “Am I cooperating with what He has in mind for me?” That way of thinking about things can make all the difference.
“In Christ we can move out of our past into a meaningful present and a breathtaking future” (Erwin W. Lutzer).