Passage: Luke 7:36-50
According to the source of all knowledge that is Wikipedia, Grace is defined as “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it.”
Which is beautiful but also deeply troubling for us, as human beings, because it just doesn’t come naturally to us. It doesn’t sit comfortably with us, precisely because it is unearned. Grace is a concept that the Pharisee in today’s passage clearly struggles with…
The Pharisee treats the woman like he does, like an outcast, because he sees the world transactionally. Wow that’s a rather big word for a Sunday afternoon! “Transactionally” is means “like what you do in a shop.” In a shop, you go to the counter and you hand over your money in exchange for goods or a service. Likewise, in our relationships, we have transactions like “you give me something that I need and I’ll give you something that you need”, ”you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”, “you do something nice and kind for me and I’ll do something nice and kind for you”.
Of course, the flip of that is “if you do something mean and nasty to me, I’ll do something mean and nasty to you; I’ll get revenge.”
This tends to be how society works.
But God does not work like that.
The God that we see in the person of Jesus is one consumed with a passion for Grace. I think because Grace has the power to transform, to change people’s hearts – something that punishment can’t do.
It’s funny, because in a typical relationship we expect a change of heart to happen first before we’re willing to forgive someone. We expect the person who’s done us wrong to say “I’m so sorry, I’ve changed, I realise I was wrong, will you please forgive me?”
But in Grace, forgiveness comes first and a transformation follows. You see this at work today in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. They call places like AA “communities of Grace” As someone is accepted they start to break their addictions and slowly transform their life.
We see this in today’s passage: the woman isn’t on her knees crying and kissing Jesus’ feet because she’s begging for forgiveness. Those are tears of joy, because she knows she’s already been forgiven!
As Jesus says, “her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown”. Everything she does is an act of love in response to the forgiveness she’s received!
Now Grace is unearned, and undeserved.
But there is a catch in the fine print, and it’s this: if we are willing to accept God’s Grace, then he wants us to be willing to pass it on. If we are willing to accept God’s unearned love, then he wants us to be willing to love others who don’t deserve it. If we are willing to accept God’s unearned forgiveness, then he wants us to be willing to forgive others who don’t deserve it.
And that’s hard. Especially when people hurt us. But God doesn’t ask us to do anything which he hasn’t done already. Jesus was lied to, betrayed, beaten up, humiliated, tortured and murdered by mankind. We threw as muchpunishment at him as we could. We threw as much sin at him as we could. We couldn’t have done any more to offend him. And what was his response?
Basically that’s the Christian message. It’s not “if you believe the right things, then when you die, your soul will float off to heaven.”
In fact we bring heaven here by accepting and sharing God’s Grace. It started with Jesus, and it continues with us, here, today.
So the question is… are we up for it? Are you up for it?
The Prayer Stations that are linked to this talk are: