The Golden Rule

“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).

Pretty much everyone is able to identify the “Golden Rule,” either positively understood (do to others as you would like them to do for you) or negatively so (don’t do to others whatever things you wouldn’t like done to you). It is taught to children in school and few are the people who would disagree with the concept. Nevertheless, even though it is perhaps one of the best known teachings of Jesus, it is one of the least followed guidelines.

Jesus framed the rule in a most easily understood way. We all know how we would like to be treated; after all, as Paul says, no one ever hated his own body (cf. Ephesians 5:29). No one wants to feel the pain and sorrow that comes from the suffering of sin. Everyone wants to feel loved. We all appreciate it when others are nice to us and show us mercy, compassion, peace, patience, kindness, and the like (cf. Galatians 5:22-24). Jesus’ exhortation, at least on that level, is simple: treat others like you want to be treated.

Yet, on the other hand, the principle is very counter-intuitive. As humans, We tend to think about ourselves and what benefits us. We look at the world through our perspective according to our wants and desires. It is natural for us to seek first our own advantage and then, if possible, the advantage of others. To consider the perspective or advantage of others before our own is most challenging, for we fear that we may be defrauded or lose advantage gained for ourselves. We worry that if we are too busy satisfying everyone else’s needs, we will be in want. We fear that considering the perspectives of others may make us wrong or less valuable or important.

Therefore, we have two options. One option, popular in the world, is to have everyone fend for him or herself. Everyone looks out for “#1.” In this option, we do not concern ourselves with the perspectives or desires of others so that we can satisfy our own desires and believe ourselves right. Many people follow this option, but there’s a big gaping hole involved. If we follow this option to the utmost, we recognize that we have completely isolated ourselves from other people. We cannot honor our fellow human beings as such because we are only interested in using them for our advantage. Meanwhile, we feel devalued and cheapened as others do the same to us. If we all just look out for our own interests we find that none of us are really satisfied.

And thus we ought to take the second option– to swallow our fears, trust in the Lord, and seek the best interest of others (Philippians 2:1-4). That’s what the “Golden Rule” is about. It is about thinking not just about oneself but also about others. That means that we consider what is best for the fellow drivers on the road, or our classmates or work associates, or our fellow Christians, or our spouses, parents, and children. It means that we consider their perspective as well as ours, to the best of our ability, and try to understand their point of view. It means not being entirely subsumed in oneself that one becomes unfeeling or unconcerned about the plight of others.

Consider our fate had God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated as much concern for us as we tend to show toward our fellow man. If They were only worried about Themselves and Their needs, would Jesus have lived and died to teach us God’s ways and to reconcile us to Him (John 1:1-14, Romans 5:5-11)? Or would They have just decided that we would be left on our own to live miserable lives only to die and be consigned to permanent hellfire (Ecclesiastes 1:1, Romans 3:23)? What a tragedy that would be!

Thanks be to God– this is not the case! Instead, Jesus was willing to love those who hated Him and to die for them, and instructed us to do the same (Luke 6:27-28). He sacrificed all things for others, seeking always their best interest and not His own– and thus He has commanded us (Matthew 20:25-28, 1 Peter 1:19-25). That’s what is required to treat others as we want to be treated!

In a world full of selfishness, glorifying the self and each person’s individual belief, it is hard to constantly remember to treat others as we want to be treated– to be loved, to be understood, to be given the benefit of the doubt, to be forgiven. Yet our salvation is entirely dependent on the fact that Jesus what was necessary for us to obtain all of those things. Let us then follow after our Lord and put the Golden Rule to practice in our own lives!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Black Friday

And he said unto them, “Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).

“Black Friday” has come upon us again– the Friday after Thanksgiving, when many people get up very early and shop. Retailers like “black” Friday– if sales are high, they make good profits and get back in the “black”– hence the name. Many are scouring the advertisements and are trying to get the best deals for gifts for themselves or for others.

Unfortunately, “Black Friday” has recently become synonymous with chaos, disorder, and mayhem. Some people have been injured or even killed in stampedes when stores open their doors. All manner of ungodly, selfish behavior takes place in those stores when a mass of people all go toward the same items. How tragic is it that gift shopping is so often turned into something so ugly and self-serving!

There is certainly nothing wrong with going out and shopping on “Black Friday,” or investigating the various sales and finding the best deals. Nevertheless, we must remember that if we are believers in Jesus Christ, we must serve Him at all times, and reflect His love at every opportunity– including on Black Friday (cf. Romans 8:29, 1 John 2:6, Luke 6:31).

As Jesus says, our lives do not consist in the abundance of our possessions. We must make sure that we do not get greedy or covetous on Black Friday or at any time, and elevate the desire to obtain products at low prices over our commitment to Christ. If we do not get the best deal, our lives will go on. If that perfect gift cannot be found, we should still be thankful that we have loved ones for whom we can give gifts. If we participate in “Black Friday” or other shopping days and act as ungodly and covetous as those in the world do, we have failed our Lord and have lost much, much more than we could ever gain through those inexpensive gifts!

But if we show love, kindness, compassion, and mercy, even on Black Friday, we might brighten someone else’s day. We can certainly let our light shine brightly during the Christmas shopping season, enjoy a better time ourselves, and be a force for good in the midst of this often selfish and greedy world. Let us serve the Risen Lord at all times!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Having Favor With the People

And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved (Acts 2:46-47).

When Christians consider the relationship that exists between them and the people in the world around them, it is easy to focus on the difficulties they present.  Since people in the world are living according to the flesh and are therefore hostile to God, unable to fulfill His law, and unable to please God (Romans 8:6-8), many such people will persecute and revile Christians (Matthew 10:17-18, 22-23; 1 Peter 3:16), not understanding why Christians set themselves apart and do not engage in licentious debauchery (1 Peter 4:4).

There are times in our lives when we will be compelled to deal with such people, and we must prepare ourselves to reflect the love of Christ even to them (cf. 1 Peter 4:12-16).  But if we were to project these negative reactions upon all people, we would go too far.  Yes, the New Testament reveals that many Christians suffered terribly at the hands of their fellow men.  But there are many other examples of times when people respected Christians!

At the end of Acts 2 we discover that the new Christians were “having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47).  This was possible because they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ doctrines, fellowship, prayer, and the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42), were together and had all things in common, selling all that they had and giving to any who had need (Acts 2:44-45), and assembling in the Temple together daily, eating in each others’ houses, receiving their food with glad and generous hearts, and praising God (Acts 2:46-47).  The people around them saw the great transformation in these Christians and were respected and appreciated for it.  Granted, it would not be long before the religious authorities would begin to persecute the Christians (cf. Acts 4-7), yet the Christians here have favor among the people.

Dorcas, or Tabitha, was full of good works and acts of charity, and when she died, all the widows mourned for their loss (cf. Acts 9:36-39).  It is also interesting to note that one of the qualifications for an overseer/elder in 1 Timothy 3:7 is that he must have “good testimony from them that are without.”  This says as much about Paul’s expectations of “outsiders” as it does about his expectation of the overseer.  Even if many people do not believe in God or obey Jesus Christ, they can respect and appreciate a man who lives by a high ethical standard, and what ethical standard is higher than the standard of Christ?  Even if they do not agree with him on religious matters, they recognize the benefit of living by conviction.

People in the world yearn to see the image of Christ reflected in Christians.  Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ,” and quite a number of people in the world entirely agree with him.  Those who claim to follow Jesus Christ ought to strive to act like Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 John 2:6).  Those who do no such thing will not obtain the blessing, and represent a hindrance to God’s purposes (Matthew 7:21-23).

Christians can have favor with the people when they reflect Christ and show the love, mercy, and compassion of Christ while remaining His humble servants.  When people are confronted with the message of Jesus Christ spoken to them by one whom they know is living that message, they will surely be impacted by the experience.  Yes, some will turn away, convicted of their sin, and will seek to justify themselves.  But many others may want to learn more because they see that the Christian has something they do not.  But this is only possible when Christians act like Christ– if Christians think and act like the world thinks and acts, there is nothing distinctive there, and therefore the person in the world cannot find the advantage to being a Christian (cf. Matthew 5:13).

The greatest testimony to the message of Jesus is the Christian whose life reflects the love, mercy, compassion, and humility of his Master.  One of the greatest hindrances to the cause of Christ are the many who profess belief in Jesus but do not reflect that love, mercy, compassion, and/or humility.  Notice the conclusion of the matter in Acts 2:47: the early Christians, being active in their association with one another, devotion to the teaching of the Apostles, love for one another, and praise toward God, have favor with all the people, and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  It worked in the first century, and it can work today.  It is true that when Christians are like their Christ, many worldly forces stand up to resist them and persecute them.  Yet, by being like Christ, those Christians will gain favor with other people, many of whom will be receptive to the Gospel of Christ, and God will add to the number of those being saved.  All of this is contingent, however, on Christians acting like Jesus!

Let us, therefore, gain favor with those with whom we are able to gain favor through reflecting the love and humility of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Jesus Wept

Jesus wept (John 11:35).

John 11:35 is famous for being the shortest verse in the Bible, and yet its message is profound in its depth. Jesus’ weeping demonstrates His emotion and relationship with humans.

The issue of God and “impassibility” has been one of the matters of dispute in theology for generations. Does God have emotions, and is He swayed by them? Many throughout time have argued that God is beyond emotion and is not emotionally impacted by other agents or causes in an attempt to raise God above the emotional fray.

Yet we humans are created in the image of God, and we do have emotions (Genesis 1:27). While we cannot imagine that God experiences emotions in the exact same way we do, the Bible is too full of discussions about God’s emotions for God to have none whatsoever. God was sorrowful when He saw the sin of men (Genesis 6:6). God demonstrates His love and mercy toward us through Christ (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:1-10, Titus 3:3-8). These are strong reasons to affirm that God does have emotion.

Jesus’ weeping is a powerful demonstration of the emotions of the God-man. Is Jesus weeping because Lazarus died? Is He weeping because of the grief and pain of Mary and Martha? Or is He weeping because sin and death lead to such results? John 11:33, 36 indicate that the first two are certainly legitimate reasons, and the third may also be true. But does Jesus not know that He is about to raise Lazarus from the dead, and turn grief to joy (cf. John 11:4, 9-10, 24-26, 38-44)? Of course He does. But that moment has not yet come. At this very moment, those whom Jesus love are suffering and grieving, and their suffering and grief are real and based in a real problem. Jesus proves willing to weep with those who weep.

Truly, here, Jesus the God-man sympathizes with human weakness (cf. Hebrews 4:15). His great love and compassion leads Him to share in the sufferings of His fellow man, even though He is able to overcome them. He is not so unreachable or too important or mighty to shed tears with those who are in misery.

As Jesus does consistently, He leaves us an example to follow (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 John 2:6). Many people are afraid to open up and love others because of the risk and exposure. Love, at times, does hurt. If at no other point, love hurts when we lose the one we love in death. We think that if we close ourselves off we “free” ourselves from experiencing pain.

Yet, as we see, Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, and was willing also to suffer pain with them. He was willing to take the risk and to suffer the pain in loving them, just as He suffered the ultimate pain and misery of death on the cross because of His love for all of us (cf. John 3:16). Since God is love (1 John 4:8), and we ought to be like God (Matthew 5:48), we would do well to open ourselves up to the risk of love and its consequences, just as God was willing to do so.

God is not so distant that He cannot sympathize with us throughout our difficulties. We can have confidence that God has feeling, and has demonstrated His goodwill toward us through the offering of His Son. His Son, in life and in dying, loved, and experienced the pain that can come with love. Let us love as Jesus loved, weep with those who weep, and strive to be more like God!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Compassion

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

If there was anyone who ever lived who was above “feeling” for other people, it could have been Jesus. After all, He is the Word, God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14). He could have just stayed above the fray of the challenges of sinful humanity.

Yet He chose otherwise! He experienced the challenges that humans face, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He learned obedience through His suffering, having been willing to humble Himself greatly in order to experience such things (Hebrews 5:7-9, Philippians 2:5-11). Therefore, He can relate to the challenges humans face, and, in fact, seeks to do so!

One constant feeling Jesus has toward people during His life is compassion. The word in English captures the essence of the idea: “feeling with” or “suffering with.” The word in Greek is even more explicit: it is the word splagchnizomai, which literally means “to be moved as to one’s bowels” (Thayer’s). Such a definition may sound bizarre: what does compassion have to do with the bowels?

Have you ever had a moment of great empathy or sympathy for another person? Perhaps you saw someone just like you in a terrible circumstance. Maybe you were watching television and they showed pictures of people starving or dying in a foreign land. It could have been one of many other situations. Regardless, when you had that feeling, where did you feel it? Likely it was a “gut feeling.” And since that’s where people tend to feel such things, ancient people thought that love and feeling originated in the bowels. Therefore, one feels compassion when one has a “gut connection” to another in his or her circumstance.

That is the feeling that Jesus had toward the multitudes and toward those in need of healing. Even though He was God, He felt the pain and suffering of the people in His gut. That feeling motivated Him to heal the sick and preach the good news to the poor. The feeling helped Him relate to others.

We, as disciples of Christ, should feel compassion toward our fellow man in his distress (Luke 10:33, Ephesians 4:32). If Jesus could humble Himself to the point of being able to feel the pain and suffering of others in Himself, we should certainly be able to have the same feeling toward our fellow sinners! Compassion transcends all the various attitudes and judgments that divide men from one another, for when we can feel in our gut for our fellow man, we have developed a strong connection with him. If we have allowed the pain and misery of this world to deaden our feelings toward our fellow man, we cannot truly imitate Christ!

If we can relate to our fellow man in his experience, we will have good motivation to take the next step and to work to strengthen, encourage, and support him (cf. Galatians 2:10, 6:10). Notice that the Good Samaritan was motivated to “love his neighbor as himself” on the basis of his compassion toward him (Luke 10:33). It is very hard to do good for those to whom we feel little to nothing. Yet, for those with whom we can relate on a personal and emotional level, it becomes much, much easier! This is why God has charged individuals to help one another, to reflect Christ’s love toward their fellow men (Galatians 6:10, James 1:27, Matthew 5:13-16). Without the personal contact, there can be little to no feeling!

If we are going to serve others as Christ has served us (Matthew 20:25-28), we must have compassion on our fellow man. We must be willing to feel what he feels, even when it is uncomfortable. When we have compassion on another, we are able to better relate to others and get beyond all the factors that seek to divide us from them. It will be much easier to do good and to love our neighbor as ourselves when we relate to our neighbor and are willing to show him compassion. As Jesus showed compassion to us, let us show compassion to others!

Ethan R. Longhenry

What Jesus Saw in Zacchaeus

And he entered and was passing through Jericho. And behold, a man called by name Zacchaeus; and he was a chief publican, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the crowd, because he was little of stature. And he ran on before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and said unto him, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house.”
And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “He is gone in to lodge with a man that is a sinner.”
And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man, I restore fourfold.”
And Jesus said unto him, “To-day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).

Zacchaeus is famous for being a “wee little man,” a character that small children learn about in Bible classes. Yet there is much that grownups can learn from Zacchaeus and his interaction with Jesus.

When the Jews saw Zacchaeus, they saw a little weasel who sided with the oppressor against them. As a publican, or tax-collector, he was equivalent to a Gentile, and probably seen as much worse (cf. Matthew 18:17). If you were trying to find the ultimate example of a sinful person in first century Judea, you would speak about the publican (cf. Luke 18:9-14)!

The publicans were seen as evil because the job attracted some of the least reputable and most corrupt persons in society. They were told to go and collect a given amount from the people, and their salary was whatever they could obtain beyond that amount. Not a few tax collectors would extort double, triple, or even quadruple the necessary funds from the people in order to line their own pockets. You can certainly understand why they were universally disliked!

Therefore, we can understand that when the people of Jericho saw Zacchaeus, they saw one of the most insufferable sinners in their midst– he is not just a tax collector, but is the chief tax collector! The people of Jericho likely could barely stomach the idea that he was a child of Abraham like they were. They would, no doubt, be assured that he would suffer greatly in the pit of Sheol because of his profession and extortion. To them, he was a good-for-nothing tax collector!

But what did Jesus see in Zacchaeus?

Did He see a sinful man, one who was quite guilty of sin? Undoubtedly. Did Jesus understand how Zacchaeus would be perceived by his fellow man? Absolutely.

But Jesus saw a side of Zacchaeus that the rest of the people refused to see. He saw the possibility of repentance in such a man despite his great sin. He perceived how Zacchaeus was extremely interested in seeing Him. Jesus, therefore, did the most unbelievable and amazing thing, at least in the eyes of the inhabitants of Jericho: He decided to lodge with Zacchaeus, of all people!

Were there not many more righteous men in Jericho? In the eyes of the people, certainly. There were probably a few Pharisees in town, maybe a priest or Levite or two. But Jesus stays with the ultimate sinner! Tongues began to wag. People begin to question. If Jesus really was the Son of God, why would He stay with such a man?

Jesus is vindicated by Zacchaeus’ response. Since Jesus was willing to show Zacchaeus love, compassion, and mercy, and to give him a chance, even if entirely undeserved, Zacchaeus responded with repentance. Jesus gently rebukes the crowd by demonstrating how salvation has come and that Zacchaeus is a child of Abraham, even if the people saw him as “too sinful” to “deserve” that status. And we see how Jesus’ ultimate purpose was fulfilled: He came to seek and save the lost.

There is a lot that we can learn from this story. For those who are in sin and separated from their Creator (Isaiah 59:1-2), you can take courage by the example of Zacchaeus, and know that Jesus has provided you love, compassion, and mercy, even though you do not deserve it (Romans 5:5-11, Ephesians 2:1-10). You also can change your ways and begin serving the Lord and be saved, no matter what you have done (1 Timothy 1:12-16).

All of us, however, can learn from Jesus and what He saw in Zacchaeus. If we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize that we have played the part of the people of Jericho far too often. We have seen terribly sinful people and believe that there was almost no chance for them to be saved. We have despised such people in our heart, especially if those people have oppressed us or harmed us in some way. We certainly could not see how any truly righteous person would have anything to do with such people!

The witness of Scripture is clear: all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of the Father (Romans 3:9-23), and that means that none of us have the right to so judge and condemn anyone (Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 14:11-12, James 4:12). The only reason that any of us have a prayer is because God showed us love, compassion, and mercy, and that despite ourselves (Romans 5:5-11, Titus 3:3-8). Those “terrible sinners” have just as much right to obtain God’s grace, repent of their sins, and be obedient as any of the rest of us do. God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11)!

Therefore, when we encounter “terrible sinners,” let us remember that just as Jesus would show them love, mercy, and compassion, even though they do not deserve it, so we should also show them love, mercy, and compassion. It may very well be that we have little influence on their actions or their lives. But you never know when the person that you have written off as a “terrible sinner” may turn out to be a Zacchaeus, one who will hear and change his ways. Let us all strive to maintain humility and reflect the love of Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Older Brother

“Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called to him one of the servants, and inquired what these things might be.
And he said unto him, ‘Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.’
But he was angry, and would not go in: and his father came out, and entreated him.
But he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years do I serve thee, and I never transgressed a commandment of thine; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but when this thy son came, who hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou killedst for him the fatted calf.’
And he said unto him, ‘Son, thou art ever with me, and all that is mine is thine. But it was meet to make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found’ (Luke 15:25-32).

The “Parable of the Prodigal Son,” which we have discussed previously, is one of Jesus’ most well-known and beloved parables. Yet, in context, a good argument can be made that the parable is less about the prodigal son and more about another character: the older brother.

The older brother stands in contrast with the prodigal. He did not take his share of the inheritance and live riotously. He has been faithful and dependable throughout. In contrast to his brother, he has followed the will of his father.

But this does not mean that he has an excellent character. When his brother returns, his heart is not filled with joy. He, instead, is resentful. He cannot believe the largess of his father toward his brother. He feels deprived, and it stings him a bit.

This parable is one of three which Jesus spoke against the Pharisees and scribes who murmured against Him regarding His eating with sinners (Luke 15:1-2). Jesus is first and foremost attempting to show these opponents how God feels about “sinners” in these three parables; yet, here at the end of the third parable, we have a figure that represents these Pharisees and scribes in the older brother. Sure, they may have not done the things that the sinners have done. But that does not make them right!

The older brother is focused on himself despite his service to his father. He cannot stand his father’s reaction to his brother because it injures his cause. He can only think about how he has been “deprived” despite the “honor” shown to his terribly sinful brother. There is no mercy or compassion in his heart.

The older brother– and the Pharisees and scribes he represents– are to serve as warnings for those who believe and strive to be faithful servants of Jesus Christ. It is easy to develop the “older brother syndrome” when one works hard in the Lord’s vineyard and hears of the repentance of a sinner. We might have been working quite diligently toward serving God while such a one has been living a dissolute life, and now we hear that we both will share the same reward? It is easy to wonder: where is the honor for us?

Such thinking is not of God; it comes from the self. According to God, there is joy whenever anyone turns from their sin. God’s love and compassion can come to all of us, and we should be showing that love and compassion to others. In the end, it is not about us; it is about God our Father. If He rejoices when a prodigal returns, we should also. If He would show mercy toward terrible sinners, who are we to judge or condemn?

The Pharisees and scribes found themselves far from the Kingdom because of their lack of love and compassion toward their fellow man. Let us not be like them or share their fate!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Jesus, Sinners, and Pharisees

And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he entered into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And behold, a woman who was in the city, a sinner; and when she knew that he was sitting at meat in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster cruse of ointment, and standing behind at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee that had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying,
“This man, if he were a prophet, would have perceived who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, that she is a sinner.”
And Jesus answering said unto him, “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee.”
And he saith, “Teacher, say on.”
“A certain lender had two debtors: the one owed five hundred shillings, and the other fifty. When they had not wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Which of them therefore will love him most?”
Simon answered and said, “He, I suppose, to whom he forgave the most.”
And he said unto him, “Thou hast rightly judged.”
And turning to the woman, he said unto Simon, “Seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath wetted my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. Thou gavest me no kiss: but she, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but she hath anointed my feet with ointment. 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” (Luke 7:36-47).

One of the difficulties with humanity involves perception. It is easy for people to look at a given person or circumstance through one particular set of lenses and to make confining judgments.

This story clearly illustrates this difficulty. Simon the Pharisee is not an evil man or an evil-willed man. We have no reason to doubt his sincerity and his passion for the Law of Moses. Nevertheless, he looks at both the woman and at Jesus through certain lenses, and does not consider any other alternatives.

The woman, according to Simon, is a sinner. To Simon, this makes her unclean, spiritually if not physically. On account of this “sin” condition of hers, she ought not even be present before himself and Jesus, at least in the eyes of Simon. It does not matter how she feels about her sin– she remains a sinner.

Likewise, if Jesus really was who He said He was, He would know these things. Simon is willing to doubt that Jesus is a prophet because He is not holding to Simon’s expectation of holiness: “surely” a prophet would withhold himself from such a sinner. He would have nothing to do with her!

It is easy to see how such narrow-mindedness leads to hardened hearts: Simon would not be alone in this. He has his own set of expectations based on his judgments. He may question other things, but those judgments are not as questioned.

Thankfully, Jesus breaks out from all such narrow-mindedness and myopia. Did Jesus know what type of woman this was? Most assuredly He did! But the woman was not some unrepentant sinner– she came and demonstrated her repentance by her actions. Jesus’ parable illustrates the reality of God’s Kingdom against the speculations of Simon: those who are forgiven more are more thankful. She loved more, therefore, her sins were forgiven!

It was a shocking statement in first century Judea indeed, but it was true– prostitutes and sinners would enter God’s Kingdom before the Law-loving Pharisees (cf. Matthew 21:31). At the close of this scene, the “sinner” woman, and not Simon the Pharisee, is forgiven, and reconciled to God.

We would do well to learn from this story and to maintain Jesus’ attitude. It may very well be that the “terrible sinners” enter the Kingdom before the “good, moral people.” The Kingdom might be full of people with whom we would not automatically choose associate. Let us not attempt to confine the work of God based upon our perspective. We might find ourselves in the wrong position before the Lord! Let us repent of our sin and mourn for it, and love the Lord Jesus!

Ethan R. Longhenry