Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Those Who Love Little

In chapter 7 of his gospel, Luke tells the story of Jesus at a dinner party at the home of Simon the Pharisee. During the dinner, an immoral woman comes into the room and washes Jesus' feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, and then anoints them with very expensive perfume. Of course Simon is appalled that this wicked women would dare to interrupt his event, and wonders why Jesus is allowing her to do this to him. Jesus then tells a parable of two men who were forgiven debts, and makes the point that the one who has been forgiven much will love much.

There are a couple of things that strike me about this account. The first is the attitude many who call themselves Christians show toward Jesus. In that time period, it was a common courtesy for a host to provide water to wash the feet of his guest, removing the dust of the journey. It also was customary to give a kiss of greeting and anoint the head of the guest with oil. By doing these things the host showed that he valued his guest and was glad for the visit. Simon did none of those things for Jesus, displaying an attitude of indifference, at best. Simon seems to think that Jesus is very fortunate to have been invited to a dinner at the home of an esteemed religious leader.

It seems that many, by their actions and attitudes, give the impression that Jesus is lucky to have them on his side. The statement by Jesus that we can do nothing without him is forgotten completely, or is explained away. I have heard folks talk about how great it would be if certain talented and famous individuals would become Christians and how much all their fame and talent could do for God. How many have given in to the idea that because I am doing all these things for God, he owes me? We wonder how God can let trouble into our lives when we have worked so hard and been so faithful.

This attitude also comes out in the way we treat others. We withhold forgiveness.We denigrate those who don't see eye to eye with us. We judge others who don't appear as spiritual as we try to. We place a premium on looking good in front of people, and spend a great deal of energy creating masks to hide our brokenness. So much of what we do is designed to put everyone, including Jesus at arms' length from who we really are. At some point we forget just how much we have been forgiven.

By contrast, the immoral women was not interested in hiding who she was. She knew she was a sinner. She knew that Jesus was the only one who could help her, and she was desperate to get to him, no matter what anyone thought. If she had any masks, she left them at home. She not only did for Jesus what Simon should have done, she lavished her attention on him. Many would probably say that she went a bit overboard with her worship. She not only sacrificed an expensive possession, but she also sacrificed any shred of dignity she may have had left. All because she realized how much she had been forgiven.

May we all be reminded of the great love God has shown us in Jesus and the great forgiveness he has given us. May we love greatly.

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