Luke tells the true story (Luke 7) of Jesus having dinner at the house of one of the religious leaders. While there, a woman comes in. Not just any woman…THAT woman. Her ill reputation around town should have kept her from entering this respectable house. But she wasn’t concerned with what others thought. She began to wash his feet with her tears, kissed them, and poured perfume over them.
The pharisee Simon thought to himself that if Jesus were really a prophet, he would know what kind of a woman this was, and presumably would send her away with disdain. Jesus tells Simon about a moneylender who forgave two men their debts, one who owed much money and another who owed less. Jesus asked Simon which man would love the moneylender more, the one who owed much or the one who owed little. Simon correctly answered, the one who owed much. Jesus responded that this same woman who came to worship him and wash his feet showed him much love while Simon who was the host showed him little.
Jesus concludes that those who are forgiven much love much but those who are forgiven little love little. Then he forgave the woman of her sins. And when the guests murmured about this, he helped her faith again by saying, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50).
If you had been a guest that evening, what would you thought as you walked home? Maybe like Simon, you would have remarked at the shameful woman who interrupted this special event. Or maybe you would have left amazed at the humility and love shown by the woman you had earlier judged. Or would you have left with a sense of awe and wonder about a man who could forgive sins, even THOSE sins?
As I leave this story, I think about how very large a pile of debt was created by my own wrongdoings. How about you? Perhaps in our eyes, it has become all past events, washed away and forgotten. In one sense, that’s true. When we confess our sins, Jesus forgives them and casts them away, remembering them no more. But I wonder, if we truly remembered each day how great a debt was forgiven, would we respond more like that woman whose only motivation and driving ambition was to worship the one who forgave her? How it would affect our daily worship if we remembered how great the grace was that washed over us. Maybe it would drive us to an authentic worship based on great love, not Sunday habits and rituals.
It’s the battle we all face: the shame of falling short, of not measuring up, of pursuing self in place of pursuing God. There is no self-cure; only the repentant heart that invites the forgiveness of Jesus. But sometimes we believe the lie instead of the truth. The lie says, “You’ve battled this sin all your life; you can’t overcome it.” The lie says, “You’re not worthy.” The only way to fight the lies is to take up the truth – God’s faithful promise of grace and peace that come from a repentant heart. Shame has no power over a heart fully given to God for this is what he promises:
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6–7).
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
“Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).
Worship is not adherence to a set of dos and don’ts. It’s not a ritual of dressing up and going to church. True worship is going to Jesus full of love and gratitude wherever you find him, any time of any day. It is the deep acknowledgment that we are sinners in need of a gracious Savior, the only one who can pronounce peace upon our soul.
Confess. Receive forgiveness. Worship fully. Go in peace.