When I was a kid, there was a girl who occasionally came to my church that I did not love. I would look at her and think that she was from wrong side of the tracks. She smelled funny and didn’t have the same nice clothes that my friends and I wore. She even acted a little odd. So I never reached out to her or accepted her as a friend. I judged her.
There’s an account in the Bible that I read recently that reminds me of my judgmental attitude. It is about a Pharisee, named Simon, who invited Jesus over for dinner. Probably there were lots of clean, well-dressed people at this dinner—all but one. She was an uninvited guest and out of her deep love for Jesus, she washed his feet with her tears and anointed him with rare perfume. In contrast, Simon had neglected to do for Jesus the bare minimum of courtesies that were expected in that day.
Ironically, Simon couldn’t contain his disdain for this woman and slammed Jesus in the process by saying of him,
“If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
Jesus responded with a parable that clearly nailed Simon’s judgmental attitude to the wall. And before the account ends, Jesus says something I found very important,
“I tell you, 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.”
I always thought that Jesus was being sarcastic about Simon’s state of sin, and perhaps he is. But this time when I read it something else stood out. I don’t think Jesus was sarcastically saying that Simon was innocent or had avoided the stench of sin. I think Jesus was saying that Simon had not recognized the sin in his life. He had not asked for forgiveness because he did not see that he needed it. So he was “forgiven little.” And when we do not seek forgiveness, we are unable to love.
Are you having difficulty loving someone? Are you comparing yourself to someone and feel that you are so much better than they are? Perhaps you have not smelled yourself lately. A normal phenomenon happens when we live with a stink in our lives. We get used to a smell that might have knocked us off our feet when we first took a whiff. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time for me to take a bath—in Christ’s forgiveness. Thank you God, for being willing to make me clean again!
*passages taken from the account in Luke 7:36-50 (NLT)