Luke 7:36–50 tells the story of a “sinful woman” who Jesus forgives. As the story goes, Jesus is eating with a Pharisee at the Pharisee’s home, and, while sitting at the table, the woman wet his feet with her tears, dried his feet with her hair, and anointed his feet with ointment.
The Pharisee then criticizes Jesus for letting his woman touch him. He explains to Jesus that if he only knew who she was, he wouldn’t let her touch him.
In response, Jesus tells a parable. The point of the parable is that he who is forgiven little, loves little, and he who is forgiven much, loves much.
There are loads of little lessons in this story (e.g., don’t ever think you know better than Jesus; no sin is so bad that it can keep us from Jesus; where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more, etc.).
The main takeaway of this little story is that people who love Jesus the most are those who are fully aware of the depth of their sin and depravity. The Kingdom of God is for the humble and the repentant. This woman was brimming over for love for Jesus because he forgave her sin, which was crushing her.
There’s another lesson that I want to point out here. What this woman did—according to social protocol and etiquette—was improper. It drew funny looks. It was an eye-brow raiser. Especially knowing her history (which was public knowledge, evidently), people would have wondered what exactly was going on between her and Jesus. Even so, her love for Jesus (because she sensed the gracious, loving, merciful presence of God in Jesus) was so much, that she was willing to break social protocols to express her gratitude and love for Jesus.
Are you willing to do that? Does your love and devotion to Jesus drive you to the point of saying, “I don’t care what it looks like, I love him”? If it doesn’t, it should.
Social protocols are powerful. Most people don’t want to stand out. We want to blend in. We don’t want to draw attention or funny looks. We don’t want people to think we’re weird or there’s something wrong with us. We certainly don’t want to be criticized, judged, or considered an outsider.
Think of how Mary must have felt when people looked at her thinking that she was pregnant out of wedlock. That certainly would have drawn funny looks, criticism, and judgment. That must have been a heavy burden, but she did it out of her love and obedience to God.
Jesus calls us to be and do things that are unpopular in the world. Are you willing to be uncomfortable in your obedience? Are you willing to do things that will make people question, judge, and critique you out of your devotion to Jesus?
The world tells us that religion is private (i.e., don’t share it with other people), and that sharing our faith with others encroaches on their liberties. Jesus, however, tells us that our faith is to be like a city on a hill and to go and make disciples, teaching them and baptizing them. The world celebrates unforgiveness and resentment while Jesus instructs us to forgive those who sin against us to infinity.
Furthermore, in asking us to do things that are counter-cultural, Jesus would never ask us to do things that he is not willing to do himself. He is the ultimate example of this. His obedience was so radical that his offense to culture cost him his life. Jesus was certainly uncomfortable hanging on the cross. The least we can do is be uncomfortable in our obedience to him even if it means drawing funny looks.
Lastly, I cannot emphasize enough that the motivating factor for complete obedience to Jesus is not fear of hell. It is love. This woman did what was “inappropriate” out of her love for Jesus as a response to his love and mercy. We obey because we love. What would you do for love? While the world may look at you funny, the Father will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Sometimes, what could seem to all like the most inappropriate thing to do to the world, is the most appropriate thing to do in God’s sight.