Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. Luke 17:4
Luke the Evangelist records a special piece of Jesus’ story in chapter 7 of his gospel. Jesus, a blue-collar itinerant preacher, attended a refined dinner party in the elegant home of a Pharisee named Simon. These cultured men surely believed that a rough carpenter must have been overwhelmed by the grandeur of their important world.
A scandal ruptured the glittering event.
A woman in that town who had lived a sinful life (Luke 7:37) flagrantly interrupted the dignified meal. She rushed into the formal affair, threw herself at Jesus’ feet, and broke open a vase of expensive perfume (surely the wages of her harlotry). She bathed his simple feet in the liquid fragrance. She wept so profusely that her tears mingled with the perfume, and then she wiped the mess with her undone hair.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Then Jesus, who was more than a prophet and knew every detail of her sordid story, answered the hissing implication of Simon’s legalistic heart.
“Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred coins, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
You gave me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet.
You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfume.
For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven…Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
This is my very-super-extra-forever-favorite gospel story. I can scarcely read it without welling up with my own tears of scarred surrender.
So, why, O why, do I who have been forgiven so much struggle with all of my weak heart to forgive so little?
I am this sinful woman. I have sinned as deep as the ocean. Shame has torn me apart. I have absorbed the ache of rejection. I have known the sweet and shaking power of a grace so abundant that it toppled strongholds with soft yet shattering whispers. I live at His feet with trembling hands, hiding behind a battering ram of mercy that sets me free. I love Him much because He has forgiven me much. Yes.
Yet, to my shame, I have not forgiven my Simons.
I write this out of exposed confession, not justification. I grieve my own self-righteousness.
I forgive weakly, palely. I forgive like a bloodless ghost who comes back to haunt my own pocked past with deathly whispers. Remember when she said that….What did he mean by that?…..How can she justify that….?
Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life. George MacDonald.
Forgiveness raises the dead. It pumps life into corpses of fallenness. It puts meat on the bones of forgotten spectres. Forgiveness redeems and resurrects lifeless relationships and empty characters.
So I memorized these verses and I will repeat them every day this year as I pray to be a Forgiver, like Jesus. Lord, make me a Forgiver, a Grace-giver. May I look at my Simons with the same merciful release with which You look at me. I choose to forgive seven times seventy times, forever, because forgiveness is the life-giving Way of the Cross.
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
This is the Year of Forgiveness