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Sunday, January 6, 2013

See that iron spike in my temple?

See it there?

Today, I got hammered. Twice.

If you've been reading what I write here for more than a few months, you've probably seen me say numerous times, "If the Bible or Jesus or God says something once, it's important. If the same thing is stated twice, then we really need to sit up and listen. And three times is the equivalent of our superlative. It's the ultimate expression."

So I have to take my own words to heart and hear what was said today. First, it all began with a very appealing opening line: The actual content of the Bible contradicts those who argue that it is misogynistic. On the contrary, God honors women. Jesus honors women.

I'm listening. Feeling "honored" is something I must say that I don't experience often.

The text was from Luke's gospel. Jesus is invited to the home of Simon, a Pharisee. These are the guys who think they have all the insider knowledge about God, and they uphold the letter of the law and overburden the people with it. They don't understand grace and work only by outward appearances of righteousness without it ever touching their hearts.

Jesus doesn't turn down the invitation. He goes to the Pharisee's home. He will join in fellowship with this man. While there, reclining at the table, a woman unknown by name but only as "a sinner" comes up behind Jesus. She is so overwhelmed by being in the presence of this one she knows of that she begins to weep. Her tears fall on his feet. She has nothing to clean them with, and so she kneels and does something considered obscene in that day: she lets down her hair, in public. She wipes his feet with her hair--wipes away the tears of contrition and love that she feels must be dirtying him; and does it with the symbol of her own glory, the woman's hair. His feet.

She is so lacking in self-consciousness that she doesn't care that she has just walked into the home of a Pharisee, one who knows her reputation. "Surely he can't be a prophet," the Pharisee judges. "If he were, he would know this woman is a Sinner." She has no name. Only the title: Sinner. Despised one. Filthy one. Jesus is aware that the Pharisee is judging her. He is aware also that the Pharisee is judging HIM. Judging God Incarnate for letting himself be dirtied by the loving, contrite touch of a repentant image-bearer. But she doesn't notice. She is not thinking of herself, only of being in the presence of Jesus.

When the hard-hearted Pharisee refuses to acknowledge that he is in need of forgiveness, Jesus draws attention to the woman directly. "Look at her!" he says to Simon. "Open your eyes and look at this woman. See how she loves me. You did the absolute minimum you could do in offering hospitality to me, but she has poured out her love lavishly, intensely, openly, publicly. And you would judge her?" Implied, too, is the pride of Simon to judge Jesus--a sin far worse than anything this Sinner woman has committed.

And so it was a beautiful story of how Jesus honored the woman of faith, despite her reputation among men. But while that was lovely, that wasn't the kicker for me. It was this, instead:
She knew her reputation. She knew what the Pharisee and other townspeople thought of her. They had judged her long ago. But she was so NOT absorbed in herself that she did not judge back.

In some ways, I am so like her. I weep at the feet of Jesus. I crave his presence. I remind myself "there is no condemnation in Christ." But I still don't have that freedom that she has, to let go of the desire to be thought well of in others' eyes, to set the record straight where painful judgment and assumptions have been made, often without basis, or based on individuals' own perceptions and not knowledge. They wound me when they judge. I am too self-conscious. I judge back. "You judge me for being free! Well I judge you back for judging me with your rules and ideas of cultural conformity!"

I heard this twice today, because we sat through worship at the church we were visiting twice. (We wanted the children to do Sunday school, and there was no other way.) The first time, I felt the hammer blow. But the second, it drove home. Twice means you'd better listen, girl. This is about you.

There really is no condemnation in Christ. Simon could think what he wanted about the woman. It wouldn't change the fact that her faith had saved her and she was in a perfect-tense state of forgiveness for her sins. She didn't have to condemn Simon. She didn't have to hide from Simon either. His condemnation was already determined, and for more than just judging her, but for not taking God at his own word.

I need the humility of the woman in this story. I need such focus on Christ that I don't care what others think of me, and I don't hurt so much when they judge me wrongly or presumptuously. God has dealt with me himself. I have been forgiven much. So much. I need to see this more clearly, so that I can be humble enough to love and not judge in return.

Pray for me on this journey?

2 comments:

Tammi T. said...

I will pray for you. May I ask that you do the same for me?

--Rebecca said...

Of course, Tammi. Of course.
Sanctification is such a long process, with so much painful self-realization. But it sends us to worship. The best place we can go.
Love to you.
--R