Love and forgiveness have, historically, not been my favorite words in the English language. Love makes me uncomfortable and forgiveness seems exhausting so I would prefer to just avoid it. But, in the life of the Christian, these two words give life (even if I feel awkward in the process).
I’ve never been the most affectionate person, even toward God. Some days, because of my deep-rooted pride issues, I never thought I needed all that much forgiveness. Other days, I thought that I was too far gone and without any hope. So God’s love and his free gift of salvation were things I thought were good, I just didn’t fully understand the extent of my need for them.
“By the end of this process, I will love God more because I will better understand how much I have been forgiven.”
This is what I told a friend when I was beginning to attend Celebrate Recovery. For months, out of pride and insecurity, I had been battling God over this, but I eventually relented and I’m so glad that I did. I wanted to go from Pharisee at heart to wholly in love with God.
When I said this, I had the image of the sinful woman washing Jesus’s feet in the middle of a Pharisee-hosted dinner party in mind.
Jesus was hanging out with the Pharisees, eating dinner, when the sinful woman crashed an incredibly intimidating party where she was clearly an outcast. She was weeping, her tears washed Jesus’s feet, she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed him with an expensive oil. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a circumstance under which I would kiss someone else’s feet, especially if they were covered in dirt and who knows what else as a result of traveling all over the region by foot.
Then the Pharisees’, in their typical fashion, started harping on the woman for her devotion to Jesus. Though they never said it aloud, Jesus knew their thoughts and responded to them with a parable about forgiveness. After a little Q&A, Jesus launches into his defense of the woman.
“Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”” Luke 7:44-47 (ESV)
Again, in this story, I have found myself identifying with the Pharisee. I’ve judged people’s expression of love toward God before because I didn’t understand how much I had been forgiven. And honestly, I still haven’t fully grasped the scope of his grace, but I’m more aware than I once was. Because I have a better understanding of my sin, I am more conscious of just how good God is.
Now that I know I have been forgiven of much, my natural response is to love him more extravagantly than I have before.
Do you love little or love much? Why do you think that is?
To go Deeper: I am Willing, The State of the Heart