It’s one of those things that we know we’re supposed to give and do. Yet it can be a tricky thing, right? Especially when we’ve been hurt by someone else. We may even feel like we are owed something, so we don’t forgive and let go until what’s owed has been paid.
The problem is, it’s never paid.
Not because the other person doesn’t apologize but because we don’t let go. And I think all of us at some time in our lives fail to realize that forgiving someone else is such an act of love. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s one of the greatest acts of love we can show someone who’s injured us.
Jesus, Simon, and the Woman
There’s a beautiful picture of forgiveness recorded by Luke that I’d like to take just a brief look at together. Let’s set some context.
The narrative in Luke of the woman anointing the feet of Jesus cannot be confused with the similar accounts found in Matthew and Mark. There are some similarities. But the one found in Luke is uniquely his.
Also, at the beginning of chapter 7, Luke displays the compassion, love, and actions of Jesus through various touches He has on the lives He encounters. At each encounter, Jesus restores. Jesus is always about restoring. The blind have their sight restored, the crippled have their legs restored, the diseased have their health restored, and the dead have their life restored.
And this woman is about to have her relationship restored!
Luke 7:36-37 ‘One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him. So he went to the Pharisee’s house. He took his place at the table. There was a woman in that town who had lived a sinful life. She learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house. So she came there with a special jar of perfume.
So pause here for just a moment. Jesus is at the house of someone everyone looks up to, and we see Luke contrast that with the woman, someone everyone looks down on. I like how Luke records the contrast here.
Luke 7:38 She stood behind Jesus and cried at his feet. And she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair. She kissed them and poured perfume on them.
I’ll keep this comment short and sweet; feet in those days were gross. I mean, like, really awful. I’ll let you use your imagination there. Moving on!
Luke 7:39 The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this. He said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him. He would know what kind of woman she is. She is a sinner!
Remember, everyone looked up to Simon but looked down on the woman. Everyone except Jesus.
Luke 7:40-43 Jesus answered him, Simon, I have something to tell you. Tell me, teacher, he said. Two people owed money to a certain lender. One owed him 500 silver coins. The other owed him 50 silver coins. Neither of them had the money to pay him back. So he let them go without paying. Which of them will love him more? Simon replied, I suppose the one who owed the most money. You are right, Jesus said.
So Jesus verbally backs Simon into a corner. Simon must answer correctly, although he likely doesn’t want to answer. Simon didn’t see a need for grace, or so he thought. He didn’t need forgiveness like this woman did.
My opinion only; I wonder if he needed it more than she did. Continuing on…
Luke 7:44-46 Then he turned toward the woman. He said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water to wash my feet. But she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss. But this woman has not stopped kissing my feet since I came in. You did not put any olive oil on my head. But she has poured this perfume on my feet.
Everything that Simon should have done but didn’t, as it was Simon’s home and Jesus was a guest. Again, Luke seems to record the contrast between the woman and Simon.
Now a lot can be said about the woman’s sin. Luke gives no detail. But we can make an educated postulation – She was a woman. Her hair was down. Simon’s repulsive response and the perfume.
There is a chance she might have been a prostitute, and to a prostitute, perfume would be a sign in a window that says open for business. Yet she breaks open this expensive jar of perfume and pours it all over Jesus’ feet. Where does that leave her? Well, without a way to get business (if indeed that is her business), and she can no longer sell it or save it for a future husband. She’s likely been saving that perfume for most of her life.
Implication? I just wonder if, in her act, she’s breaking with her past and moving forward toward her future – as if she’s saying, I’m not going back to that way of life.
Luke 7:47-48 So I tell you this. Her many sins have been forgiven. She has shown that she understands this by her great acts of love. But whoever has been forgiven only a little loves only a little. Then Jesus said to her, Your sins are forgiven.
She was the real-life example of the man who owed the big money bag. She was forgiven of much, and she loved much. But Simon, feeling pretty good about himself, doesn’t leave much room for needing forgiveness of his own and likely had difficulty offering forgiveness to someone else. But he desperately needed both. He saw little value in grace and therefore offered little grace. All of this resulted in a small love. The woman got it. Simon missed it.
A great act of love
A great act of love that you and I can do, must do, is responding to the forgiveness we’ve received. It’s staying humbly at the feet of Jesus, knowing we don’t deserve forgiveness, but giving it anyway, not costing us anything, but costing Him everything. Our response? Forgive others. When this woman was forgiven, it changed her! And when you forgive others, it changes them.
But it changes you as well.
You become a wellspring of love that overflows in great acts of love. You almost can’t help it! Don’t believe me; try it and prove me wrong. If you authentically seek to forgive, it’ll happen! When you forgive someone who’s wronged you, within you will spring forth a love that you can’t produce or manufacture. It’s a love that can only come from the Holy Spirit, and it’s a love that will motivate you, just like the woman, in great acts of love toward Jesus and others.
Try as you might, you can’t escape the truth that everyone needs forgiveness, and forgiveness changes everyone.
I don’t ever want to minimize deep hurts. I’m not saying this is easy, nor making light of wounds that seem bottomless. I am saying that God’s grace and love empower you daily to take steps toward choosing to forgive, and sometimes that has to happen often for the same offense. And you have to remember… there’s another force that desires to separate you from God and from others.
Unforgiveness will do both.
Heaven and Hell are fighting for your soul. Which one are you going to choose?
Heaven would say forgiveness. And if Heaven says forgiveness, then the One that rules Heaven will empower you, helping you with giving forgiveness. He’s promised to do so.
But we must be willing to break with our past and say we’re not going back to that way of life of harboring bitterness, resentment, and other ugly emotions. Instead, we’re moving toward our future, toward the feet of Jesus, where we can find all we need to forgive someone else. Realizing what we’ve been forgiven of ought to move us to a crazy love for Jesus and out of that flows great acts of love toward Him and others.
I don’t know your story. I know mine. And I’m familiar with harboring hurts because I wanted someone else to pay. The problem is that every time I’ve done that, I ended up suffering and paying because I didn’t forgive. It’s an upside-down approach to life, I know. But it’s so much better at the feet of Jesus than being a Simon.
So are you with me? Together, let’s strive to do the same! Let’s stay at the feet of Jesus, understanding the great love He showed us and how we are to show that great love to someone else through the great act of forgiveness.
You are loved!