A week ago I started a series on forgiveness. I stated that when a person really understands the enormity of his/her sin, and the unfathomable depths of God’s forgiveness in Christ, that person’s life is changed, just like Jacob’s (Part 1). One of the evidences of a changed life is the willingness to forgive others, even those who don’t deserve it, people we might consider our enemies (Part 2).
You might have guessed it already, but the heart of the matter here is appreciation for the work of God in our lives that shows up as gratitude. Here are a couple of stories that, when held up side-by-side, create a visual example.
In John 8 we read of a tragic incident where the Pharisees “caught a woman in adultery” and brought her to Jesus to see how he would handle the matter. Old Testament law states that the woman should be stoned (along with the man, but that is a whole other discussion), and they hoped to trap Jesus with his own response. If he showed mercy, he would be directly opposing the law. But understanding the spirit of the law better than the pharisees, Jesus wrote in the sand, and one by one the woman’s accusers left. Imagine what he must have written, that sent all of the Pharisees high-tailing away! Alone together, Jesus turned to the woman and said:
“Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one accused you?” “No one, Lord,” the
woman replied. “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Here are two principles: receiving forgiveness (total absence of condemnation) from Jesus, the essence of God wrapped in human flesh; and the appropriate response to that forgiveness—a completely changed life. A transformation. A re-creation. One can only imagine that having looked into the eyes of Jesus and heard his proclamation, the woman indeed went home and repented completely from her sin.
Another story, beautifully told by Luke in his book, chapter 7, shows Jesus entering the house of a Pharisee named Simon. While there, an uninvited woman came and lavished tear-soaked kisses on Jesus’ feet, then spread expensive, fragrant oil on his feet with her hair. What an incredible picture! How that oil must have soothed Jesus’ road-weary feet, while the fragrance would have reached his nose in a pleasing aroma symbolic of her gratitude. Simon was aghast; how could Jesus allow such behavior from a sinner?
On the contrary, Jesus not only accepted, but embraced the woman’s show of affection and devotion, because he understood what was in her heart. To illustrate, he told Simon a story of two debtors who owed a man varying amounts of money. Knowing neither debtor had any money, the man forgave both debts.
“Tell me, Simon, which of them will love the man more?” Jesus asked. “I suppose
the one he forgave more” [i.e., the one with the greater debt]. “You have rightly
judged,” Jesus replied. “Therefore, I say … her sins, which are many, are forgiven,
for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
Here are the same two principles again. It seems to be a law of love, etched in our hearts, that when we truly understand our sin and the depths of our forgiveness, our lives are changed and our hearts respond in unbounded adoration. We may not go around looking for people with tired, weary feet to wash with our tears and expensive oil, but there will always be a display of gratitude toward God and his world…a display that never stops.
Do you hear Jesus’ voice, speaking to you the same words he spoke to the woman: “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you, go in peace” (Luke 7: 48, 50)? Then go forth in your unbridled love for God, and lavish the world with your tears!