Summary: Forgiveness is a powerful force in our lives and in the lives of others. When the woman understood that she was truly and completely forgiven, she was overwhelmed. Her response was a radical demonstration of extravagant love.
Luke 7:36-8:3 “Overwhelmed by Forgiveness”
Video presentation “Forgiveness”
I often wonder what I would say if I were approached by someone and asked these questions and others like them. What would you say?
The responses of the people on the video certainly show not only that forgiveness is important to people, but also there is a certain amount of confusion about forgiveness. Our gospel lesson today seeks to reveal the power of forgiveness and its importance in our daily lives.
Today’s gospel story includes many contrasts to prove it point. The first contrast that can be seen is between Jesus and the Pharisee, Simon, who had invited Jesus to dinner. The woman, who is identified as “sinful,” enters their presence. Simon separates himself from her. He judges her harshly, wonders how Jesus can be a religious person and have anything to do with her. Jesus, on the other hand, allows the woman to touch him and even welcomes her ministrations. Eventually, Jesus proclaims that her sins, though many, are forgiven.
Jesus demonstrates that God is a forgiving God. God’s great love for his creation empowers him to forgive all sins—past, present and future. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus allow that forgiveness and a new relationship with God to be a reality in our lives. Such love and forgiveness is overwhelming; it is so great it can almost take ones breathe away.
Imagine what life would be like if God were not a forgiving God. If he acted like we do when we do not forgive, he’d “hang up” on us during our prayers, or he might not even answer his prayer phone. He’d separate himself from us and give us the cold shoulder. Even worse, he might decide that he wanted to get revenge for what we said or did to him—and if that were the case what would become of us?
Thankfully, God is a forgiving God and we are forgiven. Simon’s lack of forgiveness only serves to highlight the immensity of God’s forgiveness.
WE ARE FORGIVEN
The next contrast is between Simon and the sinful woman. Simon is a Pharisee; a super religious person, who believes that he’s a good person who does not need to be forgiven much. The woman, on the other hand, knows that she is a sinner. She might not like what she is doing, but she may not have any other choice if she is to survive. Caught in that dilemma she endures the title “sinful” and the judgment of others.
The story that Jesus tells about the two debtors is meant to jar Simon out of his religious complacency and self-righteousness. All people are in need of forgiveness—not just a little but a lot. The situation of Simon and the sinful woman is more similar than it is different.
The walk with Christ is a life changing walk. Freed from sin because of the cross of Christ, we are able to turn away from sin’s chains. We become better people. We are able to love more, and to resist the various temptations that confront us. Some people, like Simon, think that the point of a life of faith is to get better and better so that eventually God doesn’t need to forgive—they have reached a point of perfection. Along with the near perfection comes self-righteousness.
We might be able to clean up our outside act a little, but true Christian maturity comes with the increasing understanding that we are sinful and an increasing awareness of needing God’s forgiveness more and not less. Paul writes that, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Overwhelmed by God’s love and forgiveness, like the sinful woman was, we are able to experience the depth of peace and the height of praise, and the ability to forgive others.
FORGIVEN WE FORGIVE
When forgiveness is needed, it is never easy. It is difficult to conjure up the desire to forgive. If we do desire to forgive, then we discover that we need to forgive over and over again, because we keep picking up what we have forgiven.
It is difficult, if not impossible, for us to forgive if we have not been forgiven.
Knowing our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness empowers us to forgive.
Experiencing God’s unconditional love and forgiveness also enables us to celebrate life and praise God
What would you answer if someone asked you about “forgiveness”? I hope all of us would be able to answer. We need to be forgiven and we rejoice that God forgives us because of the cross of Christ. May we also be able to say that we are able to forgive because we have been forgiven.