One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then 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 bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing 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 were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
As a Methodist I have noticed frequently in the last few months that our denomination’s biggest battle is the fight against complacency. It is very rare to meet a Methodist who you would describe as “on fire for God.” Now, maybe this is because, in general, we like to keep our faith on the inside rather than parade it around for all to see. But then again, that’s not particularly glorifying to God, is it? I have also noticed that compared to other denominations we have a much larger percentage of members who were raised in the church, and a significantly smaller number of people we found Jesus as adults. I guess we call those folks “born again Christians.” Now, I can’t say which came first, the chicken or the egg, but Jesus makes an extremely relevant point here. A person who spent the first half of their life in sin is going to appreciate God’s forgiveness a lot more than a person like me, who was brought up at least trying to live sin-free, even if we never succeeded. And perhaps it is this intense awareness of what all God is giving them that causes them to fling themselves so whole-heartedly into their faith, and to completely transform their lives. And that enthusiasm and passion certainly spreads to the rest of the church. It’s contagious!
As a life-long believer (if not a life-long active Christian) I have to really fight against an attitude like Simon’s. It’s human nature to see ourselves as better than others. But human nature is, guess what, SINFUL! I am no better than anyone else; I battle sin daily just like they do. And (probably because of this complacency and pride) I do not have even close to the kind of faith this woman does. I have been given the same gifts as her, but I don’t appreciate them because in my heart my debt seems less than hers. After all, I have never had an affair, and I have never stolen anything, and I have not harmed anyone. But don’t you see the sin of pride in that thought? We are all sinners, and God forgives us all equally. So we all should appreciate His forgiveness and praise Him equally.
But we don’t. Why? What can we do to counter this tendency? Jesus doesn’t really say. I wish He did. Maybe simply being aware of it is a good place to start.