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A Pharisee once invited Jesus to dinner. During the meal, a woman, well known as a sinner, entered and began to anoint Jesus’ feet with perfume. In those days people ate by reclining on a padded bench at the table so that their feet were directed away from the table.
So, kneeling behind Jesus, the woman wet his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. The Pharisee didn’t like this intrusion, but he didn’t say anything. He just thought to himself, "This Jesus is obviously no prophet. If he were, he would know what kind of sinner this woman is." The Pharisee assumed, of course, that truly righteous men had nothing to do with sinners, especially female sinners.
But what the Pharisee didn’t know was that Jesus knew what he was thinking. He must have been surprised when Jesus told him a pointed story.
Jesus said, "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?
"Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.’
"‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said" (Luke 7:41-43).
Then Jesus gestured toward the woman and said, “Simon, you didn’t show me any particular love when I got here, but this woman certainly did. Do you know why? Because she is a big sinner who knows she needs her sins forgiven and she trusts me to do it. That’s why she loves me so much. But you, Simon, you don’t think you need much forgiveness, at least not from me, so you don’t show me much love. It’s like that with people who think they are righteous. They don’t love much. But people who know they are sinners and want my forgiveness are different. My grace inspires them to great love."
Jesus was saying that the more we understand how much we’ve been forgiven, the more we love God, who forgives us. And the more we love God who forgives us, the more we forgive our neighbor who wrongs us.
Forgiveness generates love, and love generates forgiveness.
God is the source of love, and he loved us even while we were still sinners, Romans 5:6-8 tells us. It doesn’t matter how big or well known your sins are. Jesus receives all sinners and forgives all sinners. That’s why he came. That’s why he became one of us: to forgive and heal you and me and that woman and every other sinner.
The best place for sinners to be is at the feet of Jesus.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of life.