April 9, 2014
Luke 7:47 tells the story of Jesus at the home of the Pharisee named Simon. As they were eating, a woman of ill-repute slips in and proceeds to show gratitude and love to Jesus by anointing him with alabaster oil. Simon comments in a rather judgmental manner. If Jesus was really a prophet he would know the kind of woman who was performing these deeds of kindness to Jesus, implying that he would reject her. Simon was most troubled by the fact that Jesus told her that her sins were forgiven without having to perform rituals of the law to get forgiveness. Jesus responds to Simon’s criticism by telling a story about who was forgiven most, the one who had sinned a lot or the one who sinned little. The point Jesus makes is that since she had been forgiven a lot, she shows a lot of gratitude and love. Jesus was also speaking to Simon in an indirect manner. If you would recognize your sinfulness and ask forgiveness you, also, would show much love and gratitude because he who is forgiven much loves much. Conversely, he who loves much also forgives much. Simon lacks both love and forgiveness. He did extend a cordial welcome to Jesus as was custom for guests in one’s home.
Taking this truth (he who has been forgiven much loves much), we could apply this to the situation of those who are persecuted and the persecutors. The persecuted who forgive their persecutors have already experienced forgiveness in their lives and, because they have the spirit of forgiveness and love, they are able, out of gratefulness, to extend forgiveness to those who persecute them. For the persecutors, they like Simon need to experience forgiveness for their sin. The witness of those who are persecuted and are showing love and forgiveness is clearly seen by the persecutors, and this may be the first glimpse that such a spirit and attitude is even possible in this life. Through the acts of forgiveness and love the persecutor may begin to see their own sin and the darkness that pervades their heart.
Assuming that many of us are not being persecuted for our faith at the moment as many in our extended Christian family are, how do we apply this truth to our situation? It is here where our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted are an example and inspiration. If we cannot show love and forgiveness to people who wrong us, although not to the extent of persecuting us, then we need to hear the words that were spoken to Simon. Apparently we do not show love and gratitude because we have not been forgiven much. If the truth were known, we need to confess the extent of our sins and receive great grace and forgiveness from God. Then we would have the heart of forgiveness and gratitude.
Jesus also said that if we do not forgive others we will not be forgiven (Matt. 6:15) because it reflects an attitude and spirit that fails to show genuine gratefulness for the extent to which we have been forgiven. To have an unforgiving spirit will injure and destroy our relationship with God. If we graciously extend forgiveness to others, we are in fact expressing our love and gratitude toward God for lavishly pouring his grace of forgiveness upon us. To God be the glory!
Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.