Monday, February 1, 2010

Smile like a Saint, Love like a Sinner - Reflections on Jesus' Anointing: Part 2

My last post had to do with the somewhat similar stories of Jesus' anointing in Matthew, Mark, and John, in particular in reference to the relationship and sometimes difficult conflict between worship and charity.  Luke's Gospel has a lot of parallels with the other's regarding Jesus being anointed, but is unique unto its own.  Luke gives us a very different story in 7:36-50 that I highly suggest reading here.

(picture of sculptures I took at the Santa Barbara Mission depicting Jesus helping sinful woman)

As we read here, Jesus understood something about the relationship between seeking forgiveness for sin and the ability to love God and his people.  I really want to pick apart verse 47 - which reads, "Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love..." (NRSV).  On the surface, one could argue that Jesus is implying here that to have "great love" for God and his people, one must have many sins for Jesus to forgive - so sin away!  But we know that reading the passage in this way doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  Instead, we can infer that Jesus is implying that we all have sinned much, but some of us, like Simon the Pharisee, have issues recognizing or admitting our sin.  

Its difficult for us to be a church full of loving people if we're trying to sell ourselves to Jesus and our communities as saints instead of just being transparent as sinners.  Simon the Pharisee believed that he was good and had little to be forgiven for because of his religious fervor.  Jesus tells us that "... the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little" (47).  Its easy for any of us to fall into the trap of thinking we are saints on account of our own merit (i.e. going to church regularly, tithing, serving the poor) instead on account of what Jesus has done on our behalf.

If we're going to follow Jesus' commandments to love God and his people as best we can, we need to start understanding that it starts with us constantly confessing our sinfulness, letting our tears fall on Jesus' feet in passionate worship, and learning the differences between what God and man see as righteous.  May we all wrestle intently with this passage.

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