Thursday, February 24, 2011

He Who Is Forgiven Little, Loves Little

If you're a true Christian, you've surely found yourself, like me, wanting for love and enjoyment of God, a love that overflows into selfless service and adoration. We want to be full of love for God and our neighbors, because we know that's what will truly satisfy us. But the moments where such delight and zeal become reality are all too few and fleeting. How, then, can we overcome this conundrum?

One day, Jesus went to dine with Simon, a leader in the religious sect called the Pharisees. Contrary to the normal custom of honoring a guest by greeting him with a kiss and washing his feet, Simon received Jesus with neither. As dinner went on, a woman renowned for her promiscuity interrupted the meal to anoint Jesus' feet with perfume. Even more, she began to wash Jesus' feet with her tears and--gasp!--she let down her hair (a gesture reserved only for lovers and husbands) and wiped his feet and kissed them (Luke 7:36-38). I bet you could hear the handfuls of chickpeas and bread drop to the floor. Simon then sneered at Jesus in his heart, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner" (v. 39).

Jesus responds with a parable pointed at his smug, ingracious host to illustrate the simple fact--so simple that even Simon caught it--that the extent to which our burdens have been relieved and our guilt is pardoned determines how grateful our response is. "I tell you [Simon], her sins--and they are many--have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love" (v. 47, NLT). Then he turned to the woman and assured her, "Your faith [in me as loving Rescuer] has saved you; go in peace."

In other words, the extent to which we love and adore God is determined by the extent to which we appropriate the forgiveness he bestows through Jesus. The praise, adoration, and service that were once drudging obedience are transformed into glad reflex when we experience the God's grace, his free removal of all our stains and shame, and calls us "My beloved child, with whom I am well pleased."

It's true that the believer is freely, fully, and forever released from the condemnation of his sin from the moment he embraces the gospel of the crucified and risen Christ as his Savior (Romans 8:1). But that doesn't mean that the experience of our forgiveness lasts forever, or that we stop sinning and needing God's forgiveness. Accordingly, we must continually and openly bring our need to God. Only to the extent that we open up, get honest, and expose our dirt to the God Who Sees and to some brothers and sisters we trust, will we experience the faithfully-forgiving, never-failing love of our heavenly Father. And when his forgiveness and his Word of justification penetrate our souls and lift them out of despair and out of the deluding fog of self-justification, we will find worshipful, obedient gratitude right there as well.