Love can drive us to do some crazy things sometimes. I love hearing stories about outrageous marriage proposals, people risking their lives to save loved ones, and regular Joes stepping in to help perfect strangers in an emergency. What makes us do these things? I would suggest that people who express this kind of outrageous love are usually people whose “love capacity” has been enlarged in some way.
1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” (ESV) It happens like this: We receive love, which is a basic human need. That love feeds us, just the same as food does. And just as food is assimilated into our bodies and helps us to grow and function properly, love does the same thing. So when we regularly receive the love we truly need, we are then enabled to be givers of love. And the opposite is also true: People who are starved of love often don’t have the capacity to be givers of love to others.
There’s a story in the Bible that illustrates the power and impact of God’s love perfectly. Jesus is invited to the home of a prominent man in the Jewish culture named Simon, a Pharisee, which means he was an expert in Jewish law. These people were pretty sure they were perfect and sinless because they knew how to keep God’s laws better than anyone else. The problem with thinking you’re perfect is that it leads right to the worst kinds of sin: pride, disdain for others, selfishness, unforgiveness, meanness, just to name a few. I’m sure a few people are coming to mind as you read this!
Jesus is seated at Simon’s table when a “sinful woman” (that’s what the Bible calls her) shows up–uninvited–and falls at Jesus’ feet. She has a flask of oil with her, which she pours all over Jesus’ feet. She’s so overcome with love for Jesus that her tears are also dripping onto His feet, and so she takes strands of her long hair and begins to wipe the oil and tears off of His feet with them.
Simon, in his pride, looks at this scene and scoffs. He would never allow such a woman to touch his own feet, and he assumes Jesus can’t be the Messiah He claims to be, or He wouldn’t allow this woman to touch Him, either. Jesus, knowing Simon’s thoughts, says this to him:
“Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred a denarii, and the other fifty. 42 b When they could not pay, he c cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; d you gave me no water for my feet, but e she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 f You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to g kiss my feet. 46 h You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, i which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:40b-48, ESV)
What’s your “love quotient” today? If you find yourself not feeling very full of love, remember what God did for you as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Whether you’ve been as sinful as this woman, or maybe you’ve been a little more like Simon, it’s all sin in God’s eyes, and He is ready to forgive ALL of it.
Happy December 10th!
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