Tag Archives: forgiveness

Grace for WHO?

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Anointing-His-Feet-2 pharisees

As we’ve been studying Jesus’ encounters with different women in the gospels, I can’t help but notice that we miss so much because our culture is worlds apart from their culture. All the legalism of their man-made rules, all the stigma surrounding women in the 1st century, all the no-no’s both in religious and civic life. It makes my head spin just thinking about the issues they faced that I never even have to worry about today.

We learned about the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. She had three strikes against her. 1. She was a woman. 2. She was a Samaritan. 3. She was a sinner! And yet Jesus stops by this well where she had strategically planned to be during the heat of day (when no one else would be there). He asks for a drink and ends up weaving together the most beautiful conversation with this woman to reach her heart. With neither condemnation nor judgment, He gets to the heart of her spiritual thirst. And He pours her a tall glass of Living Water by the end of their exchange.

Then we read about the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7. Frankly, I think the story is as much about her as it is about the Pharisee with whom Jesus had been invited to dine. We tend to see this story with our 21st century eyes and stare aghast at Simon, the Pharisee, who seems to be quite judgmental of this woman. “If this man were really a prophet he would know what sort of a woman this was who was touching him,” he says to himself. “Wow, how rude!”, we think to ourselves.

But what does Jesus do? First of all, He let this woman touch Him. Don’t miss the scandal in this! She was a well-known sinner! She was called an “immoral woman” in some translations. We assume this means she was sexually promiscuous. Sinner=Unclean. If an unclean person touches you, in that culture, that means YOU become unclean. And these Jewish people took their ritual cleanliness seriously! They didn’t risk becoming unclean for just any reason, and especially not for a SINNER. Like I said, they had their man-made rules, in addition to the Law, which were far more strict (and not at all necessary!) that they followed to avoid becoming unclean.

Jesus, however, risks being religiously (politically) correct to give this woman His forgiveness. To give her dignity. He saw past her reputation, and although He was the only One who could have judged her, who could have condemned her, He speaks the words she had been dying inside to hear, “You are forgiven. Go in peace.”

We see this extreme demonstration of love and forgiveness for a sinful woman, one who receives grace because that’s how Jesus responds to sin. [That and dying for it.] But we don’t always see the other story playing alongside the woman’s redemption story. When Jesus either hears or perceives Simon’s comment about the woman, He starts in with a parable of a moneylender. There were two debtors. TWO of them. One owed 500 denarii and the other owed 50. TWO of them had debt. The moneylender forgave BOTH of them of their debt because NEITHER of them could pay it off. TWO debtors. Two UNABLE to pay back their debt. [Forgive my obnoxious all caps. Emphasis soon to be made clear…]  Jesus asks the Pharisee who of the two debtors loved the moneylender more. He doesn’t go into why they had piled up so much debt or ask who is more deserving of the forgiveness. Nope. He asks about love.

And why? Why does He make the moral of the story about love? He looks at the woman and speaks to Simon, revealing to him that her act of anointing His feet, in addition to the tears and wiping His dusty toes, is a greater example of love for Him than Simon’s hospitality toward Him. She had been forgiven much, so she loved much. It just makes sense.

But what is even more baffling to me is how Jesus chose to respond to the hypocritical and self-righteous attitude which Simon displayed on that day in his home. Just as Jesus did not condemn the sinful woman, neither does He condemn the Pharisee in his holier-than-thou approach toward the woman. Simon was the debtor! The one who owed 50 denarii. The one with the lesser debt, but still a DEBTOR nonetheless! Simon couldn’t pay his debt any more than the sinful woman could. All of us are sinners. Not one of us can pay the debt we owe to God. Even the most righteous of Pharisees needed the forgiveness of the only Righteous Judge. Yet the Pharisee could not love the way the greater debtor did. But Jesus treated him with dignity and helped him to see that God’s forgiveness is for all people. There is grace for the sinner, and there is grace for the self-righteous Pharisee.

*Sigh*

That Jesus. I love Him.

We are hopelessly lost in our sin whether we owe 50 or 500. Debt is debt. Our inability to pay up means we have need of a forgiving God. May we never forget. And may we see ourselves as the sinful woman because we realize we’ve been forgiven much.

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When the Tables Turn: Lessons from a Child

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Kid-Teaching

You gotta love it when your 6-year-old son nails you about something you’re doing wrong.

We try to teach our two oldest sons that obedience is important and that there are consequences when they disobey. We also try to teach them that life isn’t about following the rules so that people will love them (or, on the grander scale, that God will love them). It’s a tricky balance because on the one hand, they disobey a lot and encounter lots of consequences. On the other hand we don’t want to encourage a performance-based spirituality.

My simplest solution is to share out loud when I mess up and to ask for Jesus’ help in front of them (and sometimes apologize to them when said mess up involves yelling at them). It is the simplest yet hardest thing to do some days. That is exactly how it went down last week.

The day started out just like every other day, except for some reason I was completely irritated. Not a single person had talked to me that morning, so I couldn’t blame it on anyone. Shucks. But then my second oldest continually got himself into trouble. Grabbing an ornament here. Breaking apart a toy there. Spilling his cup on purpose. Disregarding what I’d just said FOR THE HUNDREDTH TIME. Ok, so I exaggerate. But it felt like that, I assure you. Plus, I’m already irritated for no reason, so it just makes my nerves prickle. As we’re getting in the car, I can feel the irritation rising as I’m waiting with little patience for the boys to get themselves buckled. So I say, “I am sorry for being grumpy today. I need Jesus to change my attitude. Lord, please change my heart and help me to calm down.” Whew. Baby steps.

We run our errands and get home (in one piece) and the second oldest starts in on the usual things that get him into trouble. After the 10th transgression (or something like that), I give up on saying anything nice or calm. If he’s not going to listen, maybe he’ll hear when I get louder. That’s how it works, right?

After I lecture my second oldest on this last defiant act, my 6-year-old whips his head around and says, “Mommy, you need to pray and ask Jesus to help you.”

Oh.

Really?

So I say what any spiritually mature mom would say. “Well, I think we should pray for him because he doesn’t know how to obey!”

Nice.

So then my oldest says, “But mommy, you are angry.” Ugh. He’s so right. I’ve been owned by a 6-year-old.

I retreat, realize how ridiculous I must sound, and swallow my pride. “Jesus, help me to be wise with my words and be patient with my children as I teach them about You.” Then I get to apologize to my child who has just received a nice, unnecessary tongue lashing from me.

I never knew that these teachable moments which were intended for my children would turn out to be more for me than for them.

I’m thinking a few verses may need to go up in my kitchen:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harshword stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Will I still mess up? Yes, you bet I will. This life is meant to be lived depending on the One who saved me and continues to save me. He made me holy and continues to make me holy. The sanctification process is just that. A process. It’s not a “try harder and maybe you’ll get better” spirituality. It’s not a “boot straps” religion that requires you to just be tough and get over it. It’s more about admitting when we’re wrong, asking Him to change our hearts, and walking in the truth that He speaks in that moment. Obedience. Grace. Intermingled in a beautiful dance. I hope I can keep in step and follow His lead.

You are Loved

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I stood there weeping as the song “How He Loves” by David Crowder played. I am pregnant, so I guess it’s okay to ball like a baby during a worship song at the church. Or maybe it was something else that day…

We had a very long weekend because my husband, Eric, was off on Friday and then we had a wedding to attend on Saturday (more than 250 miles away I might add). I was in an unusually poor mood all weekend which I suppose comes with the territory of having a melancholy personality (joy). So as I walked into this church we’ve been trying out for the last 3 weeks, I was ready for a thorough heart washing. After being in such a funk, I typically beat myself up and expect God also to be hard on me for some reason. Chastisement. Correction. All a part of the Sanctification process, right?

It’s a funny thing to expect a certain response (anger, chastisement, disappointment) and to get a response completely opposite of what you dreaded. This is what I heard instead:

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…

He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.

Yeah, He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us…
Oh, how He loves us.

Sometimes, you just need to be reminded. He loves you so.

And when you least expect to be treated with grace, He pours it out lavishly so that your heart is full of His love and cannot possibly hold a single drop of condemnation. Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.

He is jealous for me. He is not willing to leave me stuck in my sin, barely keeping afloat in a storm cloud of crazy emotions. Sometimes that jealousy looks like a fierce removal of anything not of Him and sometimes it just looks like love (and maybe sometimes a mixture of both).

I think this is what the woman felt like who was forgiven much. Instead of condemnation, she received forgiveness. She loved much because she’d been forgiven much. (You can find her story at the end of Luke 7.)

How He loves you so. Consider yourself reminded 😉

 

P.S. I’m okay now 🙂 I think…