And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” (Lk. 7:40-43 NASB)
Gary Chapman wrote a definitive book on the languages of love The Five Love Languages, and in it he uses 5 different “languages” to explain how we show and receive love. One of the five is “Acts of Service.” This language is where someone does things for loved ones, helps them, holds the door for them, does chores around the house, or even small tasks. In this parable, Jesus seems to equate the “acts” of the city-sinner woman with the depth of her love. He then equates the lack of any acts on His behalf by the host as the thin love he has for Jesus.
We Love Little
If you don’t find this troubling, you probably should. First off, we, in our modern churches, have traveled so far into the “grace vs. works” theology that we seem to have Jesus waiting hand-and-foot on our whims rather than serving our King. Or, we’ll serve, but at our convenience, in whatever way we come up with. In other words, we declare Jesus as Lord, but live as if we are the lords. Jesus’ parable is for us. It’s for me, you, in the comfort of our homes, with cozy cups of coffee and fuzzy jammies, secure against the cold.
It’s not right to build our entire understanding of Jesus’ forgiveness and concept of service from this account. But this account should inform our theology. We should, we need to consider these words as authoritative for our understanding of what it means to be forgiven by Jesus. Because as we read this we have an opportunity. “…he who is forgiven little, loves little” is an indictment precisely because it gets at our perception of ourselves as either having been forgiven much or little. Think that through. The determining factor of how we see ourselves is in how we respond to Jesus’ forgiveness of us.
Reframe Our Love
It is spiritual arrogance to believe we have been forgiven little. But how do we respond to Jesus? Is He lucky to have us around? Are we “better” than those around us? Have we demonstrated to others that we are humbly (think “to a humiliating degree”) thankful to Jesus? There are days I’m not, and days I am. Sometimes I behave as if Jesus is really lucky to have me, and others where I can’t believe I get to even talk to Him. In worship, rather than raise my hands I weep, sometimes sob. Different days bring out a different me. So, I’m sure that this isn’t an easy question to answer. But work through it. Are there days you too behave as the Pharisee, loving Jesus little?
The truth I think we would all, perhaps begrudgingly, admit is that we are all more like the city-sinner woman before Jesus in terms of need of forgiveness. But making matters worse, we behave as the Pharisee, as if we have such little need of Jesus’ forgiveness. We would admit that this is like saying Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself was a trifle, but in the midst of the day we see it in ourselves only in retrospect. Today, this morning, (afternoon, evening, whenever you read this), don’t turn away from this in yourself. Don’t hide it. This is where, perhaps weeping, you bring it to the foot of Jesus.
Realize, Repent, Repeat
I wish such things guaranteed that I’d never do it again, I would never act in spiritual arrogance, or treat my Master’s sacrifice as a trifle. But I know it doesn’t mean that. What it means that I’ll be back. I try to take my thoughts captive, but some escape. Those I capture I lead to Jesus and only when I surrender any goodness of them do I sense the release of being forgiven. It’s a daily, hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute life of surrendering. And honestly, I’m not good at it. I forget, get busy and let the well-worn trails of sin in my mind become my paths. I wake up, remember, and get back to my Master’s thought trail and continue. It’s tough. But it’s where I find my Master, His grace, His love unending, and more importantly, His presence.
The city-sinner woman came and fell at Jesus’ feet. She loved much. She fell at unwashed feet because the Pharisee loved little. Yet both had been forgiven a tremendous amount, while only one realized it. Today, let’s realize it. Let’s make today one where we constantly return to our Master. Let’s keep in mind what an absolute wonder it is that we are invited to the presence of the One forming stars with a word, Who has the universe as a decoration on His workbench. He wants to know us. That’s crazy, crazy good. Let that make our day instead of the other stuff we worry so much about. Who’s in?
What’s your view through this knothole?