You’re probably familiar with the story in Luke 7:36-48 of Jesus at the Pharisee’s house with the woman who came and wiped His feet with her hair and anointed them with ointment. When the Pharisee looked down on the woman for her demonstrative love and because she was a sinner, Jesus told the parable of the two debtors, one owing five hundred pence and the other owing fifty, which a creditor forgave. He asked the Pharisee which debtor would love the creditor the most for that, and the answer was of course, “he, to whom he forgave the most.”
Now we come to the punchline that hit me different recently.
44 And he [Jesus] turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. (Luke 7:36-48, emphasis added)
Previously I thought Jesus was just saying that Simon (the Pharisee) didn’t have very many sins to be forgiven of and that meant he didn’t love Jesus as much.
But recently I realized that Jesus didn’t say anything about how many sins Simon had; we just assume it was fewer because of the comparable sizes of the debts in the parable. Also, it doesn’t say anything about whether Jesus forgave Simon or not; we just assume He did because of the parable.
I suspect that Simon had begun to repent, but that he hadn’t finished yet. And because he was not finished, I think he still probably viewed faith in Jesus to repentance as a sort of last-resort tool or something to not be used very often. Because he hadn’t used it much, he wasn’t as grateful as the woman, who had some serious sins that had been forgiven her.
Now here’s a question you may have had about this parable, even if only subconsciously. (I know I had it myself.) We may wonder, “If I haven’t committed huge sins, does that mean I am doomed to love Jesus less?”
We don’t want to go the route of committing big sins just to repent so we can love Jesus more. Sin is still sin; it still alienates us from the Lord.
The solution is that we gain greater appreciation for Christ’s atonement over time as we use it in our lives.
When I was a teen, I knew about the atonement in theory, but I still had this foolish idea that I could do things myself. Naturally, I didn’t appreciate the atonement much. But as I came to points where I had to experience it and use it, I came to appreciate it more.
Now, as I look back over the sins and mistakes that I’ve made and been forgiven of, as well as the weaknesses that I’ve asked for enabling power to cope with, I have a much greater appreciation and gratitude for it. (I also sense that my gratitude is much smaller than it should be.) But I imagine that my gratitude will only grow the more I use it in my life until the day I die when I will testify it was the only way I made it.