The Pathway Into Love | Forgiveness
To better understand the pathway into love let’s look to the story of the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet in the Gospel of Luke. (Luke 7:36-47). I recently read a sermon given by a preacher, Paul Tillich, on this story and it opened my eyes more fully to the power of divine forgiveness – the forgiveness that only God can give us.
To begin, I found it interesting to observe that there is no mention of the woman’s emotional state, the pains and wounds she carried, or the struggles that lead her into sin. No mention of her past trauma, poor decisions, or anything that we could point to and say “Ah ha, there it is – the reason for her sin.” Nothing nada. She is simply called a sinful woman. A sinful woman who experienced an internal desire to run to Jesus regardless of the obstacles.
So what made this woman run to Jesus and make a “spectacle” of herself? If we jump to the conclusion that she ran to him to become free of her sin we miss the point. After all, how many of us hold back from receiving divine forgiveness because we carry shame, anger, or anxiety? “I don’t want to confess THAT sin…”, or “I’m not worthy of divine forgiveness…my sin is too bad.”
If divine forgiveness is dependent on our ability to acknowledge our very own sin then we are all in big trouble! Divine forgiveness has nothing to do with our ability to see our human weakness and flaws. Rather, it has everything to do with God’s infinite love for us. God’s forgiveness is always available, he is always extending divine forgiveness to us. The question now becomes – can we receive divine forgiveness? And further, how can we receive divine forgiveness?
The Righteous Pharisees
Unlike the righteous Pharisees, the sinful woman had something in her interior that drew her to the feet of Jesus. Her state of mind knew he had something she needed. Since she was a sinful woman we can safely assume that she had experienced hardships in your life – hardships that set the stage for her to enter into sin. Her hardships drew her to the feet of Jesus! They became blessings because through them she was eventually able to love God “more”.
The righteous Pharisees on the other hand were blind to the woman’s reception of God’s divine forgiveness. Mind you, I am not bashing the Pharisees here. After all, it takes a lot to live a righteous life. Yet, even though they lived righteous lives they couldn’t see the inherent value in the sinful woman. They couldn’t see that she is a human being created in the image of God. For all the time they spent trying to please God and be good, they still missed the central Jesus message that this woman was wholly loved and forgiven by God already. She didn’t need to do anything to earn it and no explanation was necessary to explain her sin. All she needed was a heart on fire for God.
Reading the story we see that Jesus told her she is forgiven. Notice he did not forgive her, rather, he told her that she was already forgiven. This forgiveness was freely and continually offered to her. All she needed to do was live in God’s love to experience his forgiveness.
So here’s the thing. There is nothing we could ever say or do to “earn” God’s forgiveness or love on our own. We only experience God’s perfect forgiveness and love through his grace. Looking at the Pharisees we witness the outcome of human judgement. Logically thinking (human logic), if anyone would be able to receive God’s love and divine forgiveness then surely it would be those who “worked” for it like the Pharisees. But alas, God’s logic is well beyond human logic – whew! Lucky for us.
We don’t know what brought the woman to enter the Pharisee’s house that day. However, something gave her the power to overcome her shame and fear. Something called her to fall to the feet of Jesus, the Son of God. And this is the entire point I believe in this story. This something lives inside of us – our Triune God. He is always calling us to himself. He lives inside of us and we live inside of him. He is ever present waiting for our “yes”. We just need to turn our hearts to him.
Making it Real
After reflecting on this story in Luke I wanted to run to the feet of Jesus in full unabashed crazy love. Tears, ointment, full surrender at his sacred feet – I want it all! Like a greedy little child I want all the love Jesus Christ is willing to give me. I want to give him my full heart. So I sat in meditation and I reflected. As I sat, I noticed something was holding me back from running to Jesus Christ and falling at his feet like the sinful woman. So I took a look at this something. Then I realized that my shame was telling me I’m just not good enough to be in a love relationship with someone as good as him. So I had to stop my forward movement towards the one who holds the promise of my eternal joy and happiness. So much for human logic.
It was a lie, and I knew it. I’ve spent enough time with God to know that I am indeed worthy of this kind of crazy love. So, what to do I pondered? How can I become unstuck and run to Christ with a heart full of childlike joy? Well, I certainly can’t do it – only God’s grace can help me break through the bond of shame. He can and will heal me through his grace. He will break the bonds of shame. I was certain of this indeed.
Moving Beyond Limitations
How did I move beyond my shame you might ask? Well, that was easy once I identified my hold-back. Like the sinful woman I didn’t need to get specific about my shame and develop a long laundry list of my sins. I simply gave Jesus Christ all the shame that was holding me back from falling down at his sacred feet in total unabashed surrender. Yup, I just gave it all to him right then and there. Every part, known and unknown to me. I surrendered my shame to Christ as I sat in quite meditation.
However, before I get too ahead of myself I want to share with you where I found him. I found Christ in my interior – he was never “out there”. I didn’t need to “go” to him. There was no long, treacherous road between the two of us. And most importantly, my shame didn’t have the power to keep me from wholly surrendering myself at the feet of Christ. He was in my interior, my exterior – he was all around me. I was immersed within him and for a brief moment I experienced total joy and love.
I invite you to do the same. Sit with Jesus in quiet meditation and run to him with all the ecstacy, joy, and fortitude of the sinful woman. If you experience a hold-back like I did take a look at it. Does shame, anger, or anxiety have a hold on you? If so, give it all to God, every bit of it. His grace is bigger than your hold-back. We are all invited to surrender in crazy love at the sacred feet of Jesus Christ like the sinful woman.
Global Light for Christ (GLFC)
Our little community continues to grow in love, compassion, and support for one another and I am deeply grateful to be a part of it. If you have a prayer request, please leave it in the comment section below so we can pray for one another.
God bless all of you – Carolyn
God the Father – hold us in your Fatherly love.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – heal us with your divine love.
God the Holy Spirit – immerse us in divine love.