What if the Ten Commandments were not a list of prohibitions, but rather a list of promises that are fulfilled when we follow the first commandment to put God first?
This idea was first planted in my heart on a college retreat, and it came to mind as I was meditating on today’s Gospel about the woman caught in the act of adultery, specifically the part at the end when Jesus says to her, “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
As if it were that easy.
There have been many times in my life when I felt convicted by my own well-deserved guilt and shame, only to be shown mercy. But it was not enough to stop me from making some of the same sinful mistakes again. Why?
Perhaps it is because “sin” is not what we think it is.
I used to think of sin as a specific action. Like lying, cheating, stealing, killing, being mean. These may be sinful behaviors, but I propose that they are not sin itself, but the result of the one and only sin there is – to willfully separate myself from the will of God. If I am obeying the first commandment, it follows that I would be obeying them all, because it’s not possible to commit adultery or murder or steal or wish for what someone else has or deceive other people if I am right with God.
So when Jesus tells the woman (and the rest of us) to go and sin no more, what He is really saying – no, PLEADING – is, “Stop trying to go it alone. From now on, walk with God, and for your own sake, don’t let go of His hand, even for a second.”
As I was writing that, I thought of one of my own deep needs -to have someone hold my hand. It’s what I want to do when I’m falling in love. It’s what I want to do when I’m praying the Lord’s Prayer. It’s what I want to do when I’m angry with someone and can’t seem to rein myself in. It’s what I want when I’ve been disobedient and am being corrected. It’s what I want when I go to confession. It’s what I want when I have been forgiven but I’m still afraid I’ll do it again.
This longing for human touch is just a physical manifestation of my real longing to hold the hand of God and walk with someone who can keep me from harming myself and others. It is an admission of my own spiritual immaturity and my need for a God who can parent me with love. Like Paul says in today’s epistle, “I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . it is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it.”
Holding hands is also what I want to do with my children. I want to hold their hand to guide them, to lead them, to correct them, to comfort them, and to show them my love. Perhaps my divine parent wants to hold my hand as much as I want to hold His.