In Luke 7 Jesus is invited to the house of a Pharisee. While there, a “sinful woman” came in and “she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.
Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.’
‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said.
‘Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’
‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.” – Luke 7:38-43
Neither Simon the Pharisee nor the sinful woman were righteous before God apart from Christ. The Pharisee might have outwardly looked like he was closer to God and probably knew more of the Old Testament scriptures, but he was no closer to spiritual life because of it.
The major difference between the woman and the Pharisee was not their righteousness, but their understanding of their own sin and the solution for it. Because the Pharisee thought that he was more righteous than the sinful woman, he was further from recognizing both his need and the one who could meet that need.
Simon doubts Jesus is a prophet because He allows this sinful woman to touch Him. Jesus answers Simon’s thoughts–proving His prophetic capabilities–with the parable above and then rebukes Simon for his lack of hospitality and love. Jesus goes on to forgive the woman for her sins, astonishing the other guests (Luke 7:44-50).
The sinful woman recognized how much she needed to be forgiven and loved Jesus more because of it. Simon invited Jesus over, but didn’t think he needed much forgiveness and loved Jesus less or not at all because of it.
Whether we are more like Simon and trust in our own self-righteousness–which isn’t righteousness at all (Romans 3)–or can relate better with the sinful woman and are very aware of our failings, either way we are dead without Christ and desperately in need of His forgiveness.
One of the ways in which we grow in our love for Christ is spending time in the Word and in prayer to better understand how much we have been forgiven in Christ. The more we understand the holiness of God, His character, and our own sin, the greater we see the forgiveness we have received and our love for God increases.
As we grow in understanding how much we are forgiven, it is not only realizing the amount of sin that God has forgiven, it is also the completeness and perfection of that forgiveness. Yes, we have sinned more often and more grievously than we know, but we are also forgiven to a such a degree that it is difficult to grasp.
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:11-12
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” – Hebrews 8:12
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” – Acts 3:19
God remembers our sins no more, removes them from us as far as the east is from the west. and wipes them out. Sometimes believers live as though salvation is all about grace and every sin before they were saved is wiped out in this way, but now that they are Christians they have to play some sort of role in deserving or living up to the forgiveness they receive for any future sins. This is wrong thinking that we can all be tempted to believe in some form or fashion. It was grace, it is grace, it will always be grace.
“For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” – Hebrews 10:14
The forgiveness we receive in Christ through His sacrifice is perfect and makes us perfect forever. Past sins, present sins, and future sins are equally covered and done away with. When we hang onto shame and guilt or feel that we have to be good enough to prove our forgiveness, we are not living in the truth. We are not experiencing the reality of what Christ has done. We are limping when there is no need to limp and believing a lie from the enemy.
Live in the completeness and the perfection of the forgiveness we have received, both now and forever. By doing so you will grow in your love for the Lord and your obedience will come out of that love.
We have been forgiven much, growing in our understanding and experience of that, we will love much.
(I’ve dealt with the difference between conviction and condemnation here if you want to explore this particular issue more. Another similar topic is in regards to the Lord knowing every single sin you and I would ever commit and planning our forgiveness and salvation even before creation.)