Could two people be more different?
He is looked up to. She is looked down on.
He is a church leader. She is a streetwalker.
He makes a living promoting standards. She’s made a living breaking them.
He’s hosting the party. She’s crashing it.
Ask the other residents of Capernaum to point out the more pious of the two, and they’ll pick Simon. Why, after all, he’s a student of theology, a man of the cloth. Anyone would pick him. Anyone, that is, except Jesus. Jesus knew them both. And Jesus would pick the woman. Jesus does pick the woman. And, what’s more, He tells Simon why.
Not that Simon wants to know. His mind is elsewhere. How did this whore get in my house? He doesn’t know whom to yell at first, the woman or the servant who let her in. After all, this dinner is a formal affair. Invitation only. Upper crust. Crème de la crème. Who let the riffraff in?
Simon is angry. Just look at her — groveling at Jesus’ feet. Kissing them, no less! Why, if Jesus were who he says he is, he would have nothing to do with this woman.
One of the lessons Simon learned that day was this: Don’t think thoughts you don’t want Jesus to hear. For Jesus heard them, and when He did, He chose to share a few of His own.
“Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”
Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people — five hundred pieces of silver to one and fifty pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t give me a kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I first came in. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. I tell you, her sins — and they are many — have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:40–47)
Simon does nothing to make Jesus feel welcome. The woman, however, does everything that Simon didn’t. We aren’t told her name. Just her reputation — a sinner. A prostitute most likely. She has no invitation to the party and no standing in the community.
(Imagine a hooker in a tight dress showing up at the parsonage during the pastor’s Christmas party. Heads turn. Faces blush. Gasp!)
But people’s opinions didn’t stop her from coming. It’s not for them she has come. It’s for Him. Her every move is measured and meaningful. Each gesture extravagant. She puts her cheek to His feet, still dusty from the path. She has no water, but she has tears. She has no towel, but she has her hair. She uses both to bathe the feet of Christ. As one translation reads, “she rained tears” on His feet (Luke 7:44). She opens a vial of perfume, perhaps her only possession of worth, and massages it into His skin. The aroma is as inescapable as the irony.
You’d think Simon of all people would show such love. Is he not the reverend of the church, the student of Scripture? But he is harsh, distant. You’d think the woman would avoid Jesus. Is she not the woman of the night, the town hussy? But she can’t resist Him.
Simon’s “love” is calibrated and stingy. Her love, on the other hand, is extravagant and risky.
What one treasure does she cherish that Simon doesn’t? Simple. God’s love. We don’t know when she received it. We aren’t told how she heard about it. But we know this. She came thirsty. Thirsty from guilt. Thirsty from regret. Thirsty from countless nights of making love and finding none. She came thirsty.
And when Jesus hands her the goblet of grace, she drinks. She drinks until the mercy flows down her chin and onto her neck and chest. She drinks until every inch of her soul is moist and soft.
Simon, on the other hand, doesn’t even know he is thirsty. People like Simon don’t need grace; they analyze it. They don’t request mercy; they debate and prorate it. It wasn’t that Simon couldn’t be forgiven; he just never asks to be. So while she drinks up, he puffs up. While she has ample love to give, he has no love to offer. Why?
The 7:47 Principle. Read again verse 47 of chapter 7: “A person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Just like the jumbo jet, the 7:47 Principle has wide wings. Just like the aircraft, this truth can lift you to another level.
In other words, we can’t give what we’ve never received. If we’ve never received love, how can we love others? But, oh, how we try! As if we can conjure up love by the sheer force of will. As if there is within us a distillery of affection that lacks only a piece of wood or a hotter fire. We poke it and stoke it with resolve. What’s our typical strategy for treating a troubled relationship? Try harder.
“My spouse needs my forgiveness? I don’t know how, but I’m going to give it.” “I don’t care how much it hurts, I’m going to be nice to that bum.” “I’m supposed to love my neighbor? Okay. By golly, I will.”
Could it be we are missing a step? Could it be that the first step of love is not toward them but toward Him? Could it be that the secret to loving is receiving?
You give love by first receiving it. “We love, because He first loved us.” — 1 John 4:19
- Long to be more loving? Begin by accepting your place as a dearly loved child. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us. — Ephesians 5:1–2
- Want to learn to forgive? Then consider how you’ve been forgiven. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. — Ephesians 4:32
- Finding it hard to put others first? Think of the way Christ put you first. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. — Philippians 2:6
- Need more patience? Drink from the patience of God. — 2 Peter 3:9
- Is generosity an elusive virtue? Then consider how generous God has been with you. — Romans 5:8
- Having trouble putting up with ungrateful relatives or cranky neighbors? God puts up with you when you act the same. He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked — Luke 6:35
Can’t we love like this? Not without God’s help we can’t. A marriage-saving love is not within us. A friendship-preserving devotion cannot be found in our hearts. We need help from an outside source. A transfusion. Would we love as God loves? Then we start by receiving God’s love.
We preachers have been guilty of skipping the first step. “Love each other!” we tell our churches. “Be patient, kind, forgiving,” we urge. But instructing people to love without telling them they are loved is like telling them to write a check without our making a deposit in their accounts. No wonder so many relationships are overdrawn.
Hearts have insufficient love. The apostle John models the right sequence. He makes a deposit before he tells us to write the check. First, the deposit:
God showed how much he loved us by sending His only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. — 1 John 4:9–10
And then, having made such an outrageous, eye-opening deposit, John calls on you and me to pull out the checkbook: Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. — 1 John 4:11
The secret to loving is living loved.
Want to give it a try? Let’s carry this principle up the Mount Everest of love writings.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Several years ago someone challenged me to replace the word love in this passage with my name. I did and became a liar. “Max is patient, Max is kind. Max does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. . . .” That’s enough! Stop right there! Those words are false. Max is not patient. Max is not kind. Ask my wife and kids. Max can be an out-and-out clod! That’s my problem. And for years that was my problem with this paragraph. It set a standard I could not meet. No one can meet it. No one, that is, except Christ. Does this passage not describe the measureless love of God? Let’s insert Christ’s name in place of the word love , and see if it rings true.
Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. Jesus is not rude, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.
Rather than let this scripture remind us of a love we cannot produce, let it remind us of a love we cannot resist — God’s love.
Some of you are so thirsty for this type of love. Those who should have loved you didn’t. Those who could have loved you didn’t. You were left at the hospital. Left at the altar. Left with an empty bed. Left with a broken heart. Left with your question, “Does anybody love me?”
Please listen to heaven’s answer. God loves you. Personally. Powerfully. Passionately. Others have promised and failed. But God has promised and succeeded. He loves you with an unfailing love. And his love — if you will let it — can fill you and leave you with a love worth giving. So come. Come thirsty and drink deeply.
* * *
Is loving others something you have to muscle through? Can you relate as I do with realizing you’re a liar when you insert your name into the 1 Corinthians 13 passage? Do you drink deeply of God’s love for you? Join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear your thoughts about receiving God’s love and pouring it out to others. ~ Devotionals Daily