Go, and sin no more! (John 8:11)
How can walk through life without sin? Walking means losing balance, first to one side and then to the other. It is the same with morality — if we only wanted to do the right thing, we would never do anything. To take initiative means to fall into one or the other extreme. The art of living consists in developing an organ that is aware of the loss of balance, so that we can harness the forces of the other extreme and find our way forward. With time, the swings will not be so extreme, and we’ll notice the trend before we’ve lost our centre.
This helps us to understand Jesus’ words to the woman who was caught in committing adultery. He remains silent while the prosecutors shout at him; he perceives how the woman is thrown into the middle, preserving within himself the force of his own middle, from which he speaks when he invites the accusers to reflect: Have you never failed? Which one has never made a mistake – has never fallen into an extreme? Suddenly, the solution of stoning the woman, casting her from the extreme of ecstasy into the absolute opposite, no longer seems so fitting. In a psychologically acute observation, the evangelist notes that this insight arises first among the eldest – those who have realised that rigid perfectionism is impossible.
“Go and sin no more!” is not an invitation to be a perfectionist. Rather, it expresses the confidence that our going, that is, our losing and finding balance, can lead to our true goal – if we nurture in ourselves the forces of the centre, the forces of conscience.