So here it is, right in the middle of an already awkward moment that makes most Christians feel extremely uncomfortable: a scene about forgiveness that tends to feel a little scandalous.
The scene is one of a woman lavishly showing her affection for Jesus:
- First of all she’s crying. That alone is enough to make some uncomfortable. A person openly weeping in public, at a party no less, is awkward.
- But then, you add on top that what she’s doing with her tears. She using them to wash Jesus’ feet! Weird.
- And then she’s using her hair to dry his feet. Even weirder.
- And lastly she’s using very expensive perfume–outrageously expensive–to anoint his feet…
Yeah, most of us would probably rather skip past this story. I mean, it’s a very uncomfortable scene if you think about it. Can you imagine sitting at the table, trying to talk to someone and there is a woman on the floor massaging his feet with oil, her tears and her hair?
Awkward doesn’t really begin to cover it!
The passage I’m referring to, by the way, is found in Luke 7:36-50. And while all this is going on Jesus makes a statement about forgiveness that I’m guessing no one saw coming.
Did I mention that the woman in question has a reputation? It’s not a good one either.
But look at what Jesus says about her in Luke 7:46-48:
You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
“…her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much.”
But doesn’t she need to ask appropriately first? Shouldn’t she list all her sins and seek forgiveness with an appropriately contrite heart?
That’s how it works right? Apparently not.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ask for forgiveness. The Bible teaches us that we should. And I’m not saying there isn’t a great deal of value for us in listing our wrong doings as we seek God’s forgiveness for them. There is. But I’m seeing here that Jesus is trying to re-focus our attention on what’s really going on, or what should be really going on.
He’s pointing out that forgiveness is driven by love, not words. God doesn’t forgive us because our words match the pre-determined criteria. It isn’t about “saying it right,” but more about feeling it right. He’s showing us that true forgiveness is a result of a deeply intimate encounter with him. Forgiveness is scandalous and passionate and it comes crashing in regardless of who is watching and with no regard for what is proper.
Forgiveness isn’t given because we say it right or act a certain way. Once again, what we have with Jesus is all about relationship. Relationships are about what’s genuine, what’s real. They aren’t impressed by form and regulation, but by honesty and love.
Am I willing to break a few jars, sacrifice some costly “things”, in my pursuit of meaningful and intimate relationship?
What about when I forgive others? Does it come only when they “do it right” meeting my pre-determined requirements?