acts with much love because much has been forgiven.
is this story about? And what does it mean for us, following in the
steps of the Master?
who is this story about? Ignore the usual heading and ask, who has
Jesus got in focus? Who's the parable told for?
Simon, the Pharisee who has invited him to dinner – they were not
all total adversaries. A good person; someone committed to living
interested in Jesus but he seems also a bit sceptical – if this
man were a prophet, he would have known.
But the key thing is his feeling, revealed
by Jesus' parable for
him, that he hasn't got much
that needs forgiving. He's “righteous” in the old expression –
all is right with him and God, and others, and life generally, and
he knows it to be so.
all good, and yet he didn't do any of the usual care and attention
things. Offering water to a guest to wash hot smelly feet is
standard cultural hospitality, and something a person focussed on
others would have thought of. But he didn't. A bit smug.
Self-righteous, a word we do still use generally, and maybe our
contemporary reluctance to use the word righteous is that it too
easily gains the add-on “self”.
(but again a sign of Simon's
lack of hospitality, not ensuring the woman are welcomed somewhere
separate from the men), a
woman enters who becomes a teaching moment for Jesus in
relation to Simon. She's the
kind of person many people
wouldn't want to hang
around with. Generally
presumed to be a promiscuous slut, she's someone whose company Jesus
clearly appreciates, enjoys even. We
can enjoy being with sinners (we are all sinners, after
all!), but the thing with Jesus is that he has
no feelings of superiority
that becomesself-righteous arrogance.
That's what I reckon we find
difficult – I do. A
subtle feeling or assumption keeps sneaking in, which
seems to go naturally with
feeling okay about myself, blessed in the life I live and the
benefits of background and
things are real and
good, but they
keep encroaching as a comparison
when with people for whom
life has been different. In
contrast, Jesus would be so
much more natural and obviously respectful with them.
step to take to get beyond this righteous mind-set comes in the
lesson of the parable.
woman acts with much love
because much is forgiven. Note
that she's not forgiven
because of the love she shows. The forgiveness came
is the person in the parable who was aware of having much to be
forgiven for, the person whose debt, whose burden is that much
greater, so being able to let go of it is a really big relief. (The
Greek word for “forgive” has in fact the root meaning of “let
loudest message in the parable is what is unspoken. The
one to whom little is forgiven loves little.
The one not consciously
carrying as big a debt
burden, the one not aware of as big a load that needs to be
let go of, doesn't get the
chance to experience big forgiveness and therefore the surge of love
that naturally follows. Like the woman's tears, like rain (a Greek
word is used for her considerable weeping that is usually used for
rain), love flows
out a person who receives forgiveness.
happens in being forgiven, and in giving forgiveness to another. The
release, and then the love. This is genuine right relationship,
“righteousness”, which can only come through openness to one
us open up ourselves to one another
fear of being hurt or turned away
we need to confess our weaknesses
be covered by our brother's love, our sister's love,