Sometimes we lose sight of what the church really is and always has been.
A lot of people either have opinions of Christians that are too high or too low. Being a Christian doesn’t mean someone’s a saint. If you’ve spent any amount of time with me, be it through this blog or in person, you’ll know that’s the truth. Being a Christian also doesn’t mean that someone is the scum of the earth. I know people who’ve had bad experiences with Christians, and they let that affect their view of all Christians. While we may not be perfect, not all of us are terrible people either.
The church is supposed to be a sanctuary. It’s a safe haven for people who need rest, help, and healing. Sure, we may turn it into other things, but that’s what it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a home for the humble and the broken.
I know 30-some posts doesn’t seem like that much, but it feels like it is, and I’m actually going to use some scripture I’ve used before. In my defense, it’s one of my favorite pieces of scripture (so my mind kind of goes right to it when the opportunity presents itself) and it’s just as relevant now as it was the first post I used it in.
Luke 7:36-50 finds Jesus in yet another spat with a Pharisee. Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner at his house. Jesus likes dinner parties and the Pharisees were sort of baffled by and curious about Jesus in the beginning, so the situation isn’t too surprising. A woman with a bad reputation makes her way to the dinner, despite not being on what I’m sure was an exclusive guest list, and more specifically, she makes her way to Jesus.
She weeps at Jesus’ feet. Then she wipes up her tears with her own hair. She kisses His feet and puts perfume (or ointment depending on which translation you read) on His feet.
Simon doesn’t like it one bit. “…wah, wah, wah. If you were who you say you are, Jesus, you would’ve jumped and ran when she touched you. Blah, blah, blah…”
And Jesus being the hero He is jumps to her rescue. He tells a parable of two debtors, one of whom owed ten times more than the other. Neither could pay, so the lender cancelled both debts. Jesus asks Simon who will love the lender more. Simon supposes it’d be the one who owed the most.
Jesus tells Simon he’s correct then points out how everything the woman has done is what Simon should have done according to the customs of welcoming someone into one’s home in those days but failed to do. Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (7:47, ESV). Despite the whispers of the other people at the table, Jesus tells the woman she is forgiven and saved and to go in peace.
Put yourself in the woman’s shoes for a minute. You go to this dinner that you’re not invited to and you know no one except Jesus will be happy to see you, but you need to go. This could be your only chance. When you get there, you interact with Jesus in very intimate ways – tears, skin, hair, perfume. Then Simon brings up your reputation. So much disdain and disgust in his voice. Not that you didn’t see all this coming, but it only softens the blow so much. Maybe you look down as he says it or maybe you just look at Jesus. After all, He knows. He knows what you’ve done and what it took for you to get here. He also knows why you’re here.
I imagine Jesus’ demeanor was calm but His eyes had a glint of anger and defensiveness in them for a moment.
So Jesus comes to your defense. Instead of pointing out what you’ve done wrong, He talks about what you’ve done right. He explains, since everyone else is clueless, why you’re doing all of this. Because He gets it. He knows, and He understands, and He’s not rejecting you.
When He tells you that you’re forgiven, He speaks in present tense. He doesn’t speak like you used to sin and you won’t anymore. He speaks like you’ll mess up again, but when you do, forgiveness will still be there. He knows your past, but He directs you to the future. Then He tells you you’re saved and to go in peace. He offers you peace, and for once, you actually feel it.
Now, I told you to put yourself in the woman’s shoes, but for some, I didn’t have to. You didn’t need to put yourselves there because you’ve already been there.
The specifics might not be the same, but in a vaguer or general sense, that’s you. You know the whispers, sideways glances, and judgmental tones. You’re familiar with the shame and embarrassment of someone saying it out loud. And it’s bad, but sometimes it’s not nearly as bad as what you say to yourself or put yourself through.
If you’re like me, you love Luke 7:36-50 because when Jesus defends the woman, it’s like He’s defending you.
When Alan first told me the concept behind his sermon for Sunday (which this post is based off of for those of you who weren’t there/haven’t listened to it), I told him that it’s a cycle.
Everyone breaks. If you don’t, you’re either a robot or a superhuman, and you should tell someone (but not the government). We all have tough times and periods of time when we just stop trying to win because we just know that we can’t win. Psalm 147:3 (ESV) says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” The word “brokenhearted” can easily be replaced with just “broken” here. God formed us and put us together once, and He’ll do it every time as needed if we ask Him.
But when things turn around, it’s important to stay humble because we remember where we’ve been and that we’ll eventually be broken again. We didn’t pull ourselves together. God put us back together. The humble are the ones who sympathize with the broken. They may be well now, but they remember what it’s like to not be well. And they don’t take a bit of credit for their rise because everything miraculous about it is God’s doing.
So that’s why the church exists for the humble and the broken. Because we need God and we need somewhere to belong, and no one belongs anywhere more than God’s loving arms.
The Church shouldn’t claim to be perfect because we’re not. I can’t speak for every member of the Church or even every member of Abstract Church, but I’ve never claimed to be perfect. However, I know firsthand that some people give off that impression. And I would like to say that if any member of the Body of Christ has made you feel inferior or undeserving, I apologize. Because you’re not any more unworthy that the rest of us. We all receive grace and are made worthy by the blood and love of Christ.
He’s the only reason and the only way. We can’t earn it, and no, we don’t deserve it. He gives it to us anyway. He gives it to all of us equally. It’s called grace. It doesn’t matter what He’s saved you from; it only matters that He’s saved you. It’s unfair, but I’m glad it is because on my own, I don’t deserve any of the blessings, mercies, and gifts God’s given me. None of us do. We’re all just broken people being healed by the One who made us.
By Carrie Prevette