This morning as I was reading in the Gospel of Luke the Holy Spirit made me powerfully aware of these words spoken by Jesus. “But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (ESV, Luke 7:47b). This is what I love about Scripture being the living word of God. I’ve hit the half century mark and read this passage more times than I can remember. I have preached from this passage several times and heard several sermons preached from it. Nevertheless, this morning as I once again read the account of “a woman of the city, who was a sinner” barging into a Pharisee’s house and unabashedly washing Jesus feet with her tears, hair, and expensive perfume. As the appalled the religious types glared in disgust and the disciples starred in bewilderment. It hit me . . . no it nailed me!
Personally, these words addressed an issue that I am presently facing in regard to my relationships with other Christians – brothers in Christ. Quite honestly there are Christians in my life that quite frankly I don’t like. Yes, I try to convince myself, that I don’t have to like people to love them with “agape” love, but the truth is if I don’t like someone, there is no way there is anything in my heart that comes even close to loving them. Some of these people I don’t like because they have wronged me in legitimate ways and are either unaware or don’t care. Others just simply irritate me. Once again I like to justify that irritation as being based in theology, philosophy of ministry, ecclesiology of other modern Pharisaical terms, but the truth is they irritate me and I really don’t want to like them, hang out with them, let alone love them! Ouch!
And when you add that I am a Pastor, Dean of Students and Professor to the mix I end up faking most of the time. Think about it! Not only am I as a Christian called to love, but every title I have, intensifies the pressure to live incongruously. Mmmm….that looks a lot like a 21st century Pharisee! That hurts! The problem with living that way is that is not only Pharisaical but it starves my heart of the refreshing grace that comes through a deep awareness of my own sin, not just my depravity, but my actual cancerous lack of love for my brothers and sisters in Christ!
The Pharisees had built a system of rules and regulations that fit them. The laws they followed emphasized and created suited the way they wanted to live. That would be like me declaring that eating sushi is sin simply because I don’t it. Oh, I even justify my action making me look good, but my friend Danny would automatically have a new sin struggle. When we create and emphasize our own laws as a way to make us feel more spiritual or better than others, we slowly begin to believe that there really is no need for confession, as you program yourself that you don’t sin, or “that’ is really a sin.
The Christian community really is a mess and though we live in time where more people are talking about the Gospel, being Missional, bringing a time of confession back into our liturgy, most of it is empty. Despite John’s concise connection of love for the fellow Christian to the legitimacy of our faith, we still are one big dysfunctional family, and I am part of that dysfunction!
Sadly, like a dysfunctional family, not only do we not like each other, but we really dislike those outside the family! I have found in my ministry experience that often the harshest critics of the church are those whose marriages are secretly falling apart. When you mix a broken marriage, with a denial of any problems, it makes for a potent condemnation for those around them. In the same way as the Christian community feverishly works to cover up and deny our lack of love for each other, we take all our frustration out on the world around us!
Do we really believe the right political party, president or government will solve our problems? Is it really about healthcare? If we somehow could wipe all that we believe is wrong with our society and go back to a better time, would that really help anything? Okay, I am starting to rant . . . but my point is this. When my heart is not in the right place, nothing will be in the right place for me! If I have not bathed myself in the reality of the Gospel and if I am not trying to constantly immerse myself in it, then I will move away from the astonishing reality that through the finished work of Jesus Christ, I have been forgiven in ways that are larger and more extensive than I could ever ask of imagine!
Are you having a hard time liking people around you? Do you feel a need to share your frustrations about others with a friend or co-worker? Do you find yourself regularly irritated by the world around you? Could you enjoy spending time with someone who has radically different political views than you without it becoming a fight? These are all common symptoms of believing that you have “been forgiven little.” Will you take the time to lay your self-righteousness back at the feet of Jesus, and let the tears of repentance pour over His feet? There and only there will you find true peace, contentment and the grace to like people… and yes, even to love people! You will be surprised what Grace will do!