Degrees and Degrees
Position of Forgiveness
Degree is one of those words that is used to describe a number of different things, temperature, education or position. One thing all of these have in common is classifying things higher or lower based on some criteria. For instance, a boiling temperature is higher than freezing temperature, a doctorate is a higher level of education than a masters, a supreme court justice has a higher position than an appellate court justice. By nature we tend to classify things and justify our position according to our own perspective.
Today we’ll look at the story of the sinful woman and the Pharisee in Luke 7:36-47. We will see both Jesus and the Pharisee saw things in degrees but their perspective was very different. The story begins when the Pharisee asked Jesus to dinner so He went to the Pharisees house and reclined at the table. As he did so a sinful woman came in and began to wash His feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. She then began kissing His feet and finally anointed the feet of the Savior with ointment. As this sinful woman performed this wonderful expression of love for Jesus the Pharisee thought to himself, “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 (v39).” Jesus knew what the Pharisee was thinking and spoke, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher (v40).”
In answer Jesus told a story, “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more? (v41-42).” The Pharisee, still focused on the sinner in his house, answered grudgingly, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt (v43).” He’d missed Jesus whole point, Simon was still focused on the sin of the woman but Jesus was zeroed in on what was in Simon’s heart. His response laid out the things that Simon had done to violate his own cultural practices,“…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’ (v44-47).”
Notice Jesus pointed out Simon did not perform customary hospitality for Him. “You gave me no water or kiss” and “You did not anoint my head” are telling statements. Other Pharisees would have been offended had Simon not done those things for them and, because there were others at the table, the implication is Simon may have followed the customs for them but not for Jesus. Simon saw things in degrees, himself as the “clean,” highly educated lawyer and Jesus as one who claimed to be a teacher but indulged sinners like the woman. In other words, self-exaltation caused him to miss the degree of his own sin and I believe we as Christians sometimes engage in the same practice. Our human nature drives to compare degrees of sinfulness forgetting the tiniest thing we do to displease God would separate us from Him eternally apart from the forgiveness that Jesus provided for us. The question is, “what drove this sinful woman to enter the house of a Pharisee where she knew she was unwelcome?” Jesus gave a clear answer, “for she loved much (v47).” Her tears demonstrated her sorrow with her own sinful nature and her actions demonstrated her love for the Lord.
Now we have to ask some tough questions:
- Do our sins break our heart to the degree we bath the Saviors feet with our tears?
- Do we love Jesus more because we recognize how much He has forgiven us?
- Do we ever allow our position in the Kingdom of God to become arrogance to the degree we condemn others without examining ourselves?
- Do we ever loose sight of the fact that we need God’s Love to love others?
May our love for God and recognition of our own sinful nature drive us to maintain a position of forgiveness never forgetting there are degrees and degrees!
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”