Rejoice!

Again I say, Rejoice!

If Christians are forgiven, why aren’t we the happiest people on the planet? Why is our reputation (at least in North America) so tied to words like guilt & shame rather than to free & joyful? There are many reasons, no doubt. But the one which Papa has laid most heavily on my heart lately is, we don’t live forgiven! We claim we are forgiven, we might even sing about being “washed white as snow,” but too often the claim hasn’t moved to the place in our personal experience that we dare actually live as if it is true. Indeed, we generally misunderstand what it looks like to live forgiven.

As I was musing on these ideas and talking with Papa my mind went to a couple of words of Jesus, recorded by Luke. Sometimes a few words, taken out of context, lead to big problems. At other times, the Spirit uses the “word of God” (or perhaps “utterance” or “saying” of God) as a knife or short, cutting, sword to get to the heart of a matter quickly and directly (Eph. 6:17, Heb. 4:12). The words of Jesus which the Spirit brought to mind arise in the context of a dinner party (depicted here by Rubens). Jesus had been invited to the house of Simon for dinner. Simon was a strict adherent to the law of Moses, as interpreted by the fathers—he was “a separated one” (Pharisee). After they reclined around the table a woman of ill repute got into the dining hall with some perfume and knelt near Jesus’ feet. I think her plan was to put on the perfume on his feet, but as she started to act on that part of her plan she was overcome, started crying, and then felt she needed to undo the unanticipated effect of her tears–little “splash spots” in the dust–she decided to try to “deal with it” by wiping his feet with her hair and then apply the perfume. Simon, bound up with all the burdens of Law (and proud of his own separation from sin), used these actions to justify himself and think less of Jesus (“If this man were a prophet he would know what sort of person she is [sinner!]”). So here’s the question: Which one is living forgiven?

Of course, you know the answer. But the conviction still remains, because too often we live like Simon, not like the one at Jesus’ feet. Although the story begins with the dinner, that could not have been the beginning of the story because Jesus tells Simon (and us) that this woman’s actions were motivated by gratitude. She was not groveling in order to be forgiven, trying some how to make up for how bad she had been (that might have been Simon’s approach to sin, but not her): She was grateful that she had been forgiven—which Jesus then again affirmed (Luke 7:47, 48). I love the way Eugene Peterson translates Jesus here: “. . . She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”

It is that last sentence which Papa brought to mind as I was thinking what to write next on this issues of sin, forgiveness, and cleansing. The passages I shared on Tuesday are significant. They tell us something of the magnitude of Christ’s work on our behalf—the actual removal of sin, a washing which gives us a pure heart and allows us to draw near to a holy God. Despite our puny efforts to classify the sins of others as greater than our own, sin put each of us in desperate need. Our problem, too often, is that we don’t comprehend the greatness of the provision—which extends beyond our sins to the removal of sin itself (Romans 6:7)!* Yet, if we continue with our self-justifying “comparison to others” approach (like Simon of old), we miss the blessing. We lack the joy. When we experience living forgiven, we gratefully adore The One Who took away our sins and our sin, Who made us clean. We hear Him say “your sins have been forgiven.” The phrase as Papa brought it to mind wasn’t from Peterson’s translation, it was: “He who is forgiven little, loves little.”

How much have you been forgiven? Do you really believe that?

Talk with Papa about it!

John