I am going out on a limb. My heart is heavy. I fear that much of the professing church doesn’t know Jesus.
The reason I say this is that far too many who claim to follow Jesus relate to others as if they never fell on their knees and begged God to be patient with them so that they could find a way to pay their massive debt.
Let me frame it in a series of questions.
- How do we forget the pity God took on us when He canceled such unimaginable debt?
- Are we drunk with a sense of entitlement?
- Do we claim such forgiveness, and then with fierce indignation demand to be paid back by fellow humans for many smaller debts?
- How could we be souls without mercy toward those who fall to their knees and beg for patience?
- Are we among those who are confident that we are righteous and look down on everyone else?
- Are we those who thank God we are not like the horrible sinners?
- Where are the ones who stand at a distance with downcast eyes – the chest-beating, mercy-pleading, self-confessed sinners?
- Where are the ones who lay aside their fancy clothing to become towel-girding, water-pouring, basin-carrying, foot-washing followers of Jesus?
Be very honest.
How would you respond if you saw Jesus seated at dinner and observed a certain immoral woman from the city with a beautiful jar filled with expensive perfume kneeling at his feet, weeping and wiping her tears off his feet with her hair? Then you saw her continually kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
Would you think to yourself, “If this man were a godly man, he would know what kind of woman is touching him? She’s a sinner!” Did Jesus fail to “avoid all appearance of evil”? Her actions might convey something erotic associated with her life as a prostitute. The beautiful jar filled with expensive perfume was purchased with money she earned selling herself to men. Should he reject its use on him?
Is it possible that this woman didn’t want to live as a prostitute, but difficult circumstances or coercion by others landed her in such a life – a life perhaps that she hated? Are we too quick to make unmerciful judgments? Was she a worse sinner than all the others at the dinner? (see: Luke 13:1-5).
Be careful with your answers. Jesus said to self-righteous people, “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do” (Matthew 21:31).
A story we need to read often (Luke 7:36-50)
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.
Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
“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 a little love.”
What self-righteous religious people said about Jesus
- “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Matthew 9:11).
- “….the people were displeased. ‘He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled’” (Luke 19:7).
- “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people — even eating with them!” (Luke 15:1-2).
Forgetfulness – a formidable enemy
There’s a reason why the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. Do this in remembrance of me’” (I Corinthians 11:23-24).
It seems too easy to be “shortsighted or blind, forgetting that we have been cleansed from our old sins” (II Peter 1:9). There is great danger in forgetting the day when you “stood at a distance and would not even look up to heaven, but beat your chest praying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’?” (Luke 18:13). This was the day of our salvation; the day we “went home justified before God” (Luke 18:14).
Perhaps, however, you have never had such an experience. Maybe you think you “accepted Jesus into your heart,” but you do not truly know Jesus. Have you cried out, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”? (Romans 7:24-25).
Be honest with yourself. We must confront every self-righteous tendency of our hearts.
Let’s not be among the “many” on judgment day which addressed him as “Lord,” but will not enter the kingdom of heaven because we never knew Jesus and He never knew us (see: Matthew 7:21-23).
Think about Jesus’ words: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do” (Matthew 21:31).