LUKE 7:45-47 (NIV) | “You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
If you look in my Bible, you will find the end of Luke 7:47 — “But he who has been forgiven little loves little” — underlined tentatively in pencil. That verse was an answer to a gut-wrenching prayer, but it was not the answer I had anticipated.
I was 19 when I first realized I did not know everything. I had grown up attending church, and I had accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was about seven. My clear sense of right and wrong emboldened me to dance the line between them and to feel guilty, at least for awhile, when I crossed that line. Knowing everything meant I was well equipped to make my own choices and decide for myself what I ought to do. (Enter stage left: a sinful woman.) By the second semester of my sophomore year of college, I was miserable and finally had to admit that on my own I make terrible choices. I (gasp!) did not know everything.
This shocking revelation led me to surrender to my Savior in a different way and allow him to be Lord of my life. The touching prayer went something like this: “I give up. If you think you can do a better job of running my life, then go right ahead.” I slunk back across the line between right and wrong, staked my claim on the “right” side, and began to live a life typified by habits of obedience. I knew that if I obeyed, God would bless. This great arrangement guaranteed I would not live my life in vain and gave God a faithful partner in his work. Win-win. (Enter stage right: a Pharisee.)
Somewhere along the way, the obey-and-bless formula stopped working so well for me. Really, God had never been thrilled by it, but I am a slow learner. I had established a contractual relationship with God, not a personal one, and once again I was miserable. The scariest part was admitting that I did not love God. I obeyed him. I feared him. But I did not love him. Internally I floundered, casting about for some solid ground to stand on, and for an answer as to why I did not love him. (Fade to black.)
“... [S]he who has been forgiven little loves little” crashed into my thoughts with the thundering, resonant whisper of truth. My sins were plentiful enough; the problem was that I made my sins small. My obedient performance for God led me to minimize, excuse, ignore, or even hide my sin instead of hauling it into his presence. My lack of honesty made actual, life-giving relationship impossible.
Eugene Peterson captures this way of relating well: “Sin is a refusal … to be in personal relation with the living, personal God … if something is going to be done about sin, it is not going to be along the line of laws and rules … but only in a deeply personal act that restores intimate relationship.”
Luke 7:36-38 describe just such “a deeply personal act”. As I meditated on that (frankly, uncomfortable) scene, I felt a clear invitation from Jesus to bring all of myself to him. Did I love him enough to be completely undone in his presence? Had I tasted enough forgiveness to propel me forward to his feet? I did not have an alabaster jar of valuable perfume to pour out — just my stinky collection of sin. The exposure and vulnerability, however, felt the same. The way he lovingly accepted the offering was the same. And the freedom of forgiveness it brought was the same.
I have never been the same.
(Spotlight: the cross.)
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- Reread Luke 7:36-39, and imagine yourself in the scene. Are you the woman who lived a sinful life or the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner?
- Whether you wear the label “Pharisee” or “sinner”, Jesus wants relationship and proximity. Do you have the courage to approach him? What are you bringing? What is his response?
- Allow Jesus to measure the size of your love. Is he inviting you to grow in your love? What do you need to do to accept that love-growing invitation?
This reading is a part of our "Small Feet Big Shoes" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jody Hovda and her husband, Paul, and family have been a part of CRM since 1999. They served in Caracas, Venezuela for eight years and in 2012 moved to Novi Sad, Serbia. Their passion is to see individuals and churches transformed by responding to God’s invitation to intimacy and, in turn, for that transformation to impact communities and influence culture. Jody serves as the general director of the Ethne collective.