“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men –robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14).
Have you ever felt shame? Shame over something you have done, shame over something you’ve thought or shame over something you have said? Webster’s Dictionary defines shame as, “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety or a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shame). I have felt this shame, and more than once I might add. I think the worst part about shame is someone who will never let you forget what you have done, like this Pharisee Jesus mentions in Luke 18. It is not enough you carry the burden and memory of your shame, but to be reminded of it daily can be overwhelming.
The sinful woman in Luke 7 is continually reminded of her shame and sin. Reminded by the religious sect of the day; reminded by the town in which she dwelt and much like the Woman at the Well, separated herself from their vicious talk. The scene for which God has this woman humble herself before his Son, mentioning her in his bible is as follows, “Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisees house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at this Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as 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 was 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 men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owned him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’
Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.’
‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’
Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’
The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith as saved you; go in peace.”
This is one of the most beautiful passages to me in the bible. Knowing and believing Jesus as the Messiah, he allowed a sinful woman to kiss, cry and wipe his feet. She humbled herself before the religious men, did not care what they had to say, just as Mary of Bethany when she anointed Christ was admonished, Mark writes, “They rebuked her harshly.” (Mark 14:5).
Pushing past her shame, pushing past her embarrassment and pride, the sinful woman weeps at her own depravity. The knowledge in which God has opened her heart for a new beginning; a new season in her life, to leave the old way and become a new creation in Christ pulled her toward this Pharisee’s house. Christ showed this woman, as he shows us, unconditional love. The love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient, and love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.”
I highlight “it keeps no record of wrongs” because shame will hold the record for you. This Pharisee would never let this woman forget her sin. This Pharisee would never let her come near the temple. This Pharisee would despise and reject this woman, even in thought. This Pharisee would turn his back on this sinful woman and sadly, this “Pharisee attitude” is alive and well in the church.
I have felt shame. I have felt the rejection of the church. I have felt the finger pointing, the joking and laughs at my expense. Shame can hold you prisoner with the church as its prison guards! I know of those who have talked about me, whispered untruths and gossiped. The shame of telling a testimony of “worldly” behaviors, attitudes and actions to a Christian woman who may not have experienced that type of “sinful” woman is hard. My telling has been “told” to others without me being present. I have had women turn their backs to me, turn their faces, walk away if I come into a group, completely ignore me if I am sitting at a table with them, and deliberately interrupt while I am speaking. These are all experiences I had in the church. The “record of wrongs” was, as the sinful woman, un-forgiven.
Our Lord is not like that. The mistakes you have made can be repented of, forgiven and washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb. The memories and past, in which others seem to reveal in remembering, will haunt you if you allow them to. To be loved by others who are encouraging, welcoming and believing you are a new creation in Christ, the old has past and the new has come, is beautiful, but rare. Contrary to the world which will rehash and remember the past, contrary to the world and those who choose to NOT forgive, contrary to the world’s pointing at you and contrary to the world who would disown you for your lack of good judgment, Christ’s arms are always open to the those who desire unconditional love.
Open to the in-valids in our society, open to the broken hearted, open to the ones cast out of groups, open to the ones who know their depravity and need a Savior, open to the ones so scarred and marred by the world, only his gently embrace could ever heal those tender wounds. Jesus Christ will never turn you away! Remember, Christ allowed the sinful woman to wash his feet with her tears. Redemption is a tender, sweet, pure and beautiful act of worship. Christ allowed her to feel the conviction coursing through her body, repent and be set free from bondage. Jesus allowed her humbly fall on her knees in reverential awe, salvation is for all those who humble themselves before them mighty hand of God. This is NOT a weak willed woman. This was a woman, who tired of her sin, who tired of society’s rejection, tired of the shame and embarrassment, her heart sought true love.
Are you shamed or a-shamed of your sin? Do others remind you of your past? Do the memories bring a hot embarrassment of shame when recollection? Is your shame outwardly known for an adulterous affair, eating disorder, imprisonment, sexual promiscuity, drugs, alcohol, fraud, gambler, cheater, thief or any other out-wardly crime or sign the church, your family or friends will NOT let you forget or will not forgive you? I know who will!
My heart is for the woman coming from the “world” into the Word. How do these “worldly” women relate to these nice, sweet Christian women? Christian woman, I beg you, love this worldly woman. Love them for taking that step of faith, walking into a church and giving their heart to Christ. Allow them to open themselves up, totally transparent, share their testimony and accept them as Christ does. Encourage them to be this new creation in Christ. Encourage them in their bible studies, serving in the church and loving them the way Christ loves them. Do not turn your back to them. Do not shun them the way society does. The shame of conviction is in their spirit, and the rejection from the church can be a double the pressure. Humbling themselves to repent and come to the church, feeling the shame of conviction and the maybe the rejection of the church can cause may to leave and just be too overwhelming. Please, love these women. Open your arms to the sinful woman, giving her a place of comfort, security and love.
Let us pray for these women and CONFESS the Word of the Living God;
I have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23). Forgive me, wash me clean and I will be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7). I know you have heard my cry for only you could lift me out of the mud and the mire, setting my feet on a rock, Jesus Christ. You’ve put a new song in my heart, a hymn of praise to you (Psalm 40:1-3).
I believe I am a new creation in Christ, the old has passed the new has come (1 Corinthians 5:7). For I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame (Psalm 34:4). Help me to humble myself before you, for only then will you lift me up (James 4:10). Teach me your Word, guide me in all Truths, counsel me with love and show me your ways (Psalm 25).
I praise you Lord for bringing new believers to eternal life (Romans 10:9). I pray that my own heart is open to their testimony, never quick to judge or turn away from them (Luke 6:37-38). I pray I can encourage them in their walk, this journey of being a Christian (Ephesians 5:19-20). My heart’s desire is to understand and guide them into all Truths. I never want to gossip or be as the Pharisees, reminding them of their sin continuously. Help me know when to speak, when to encourage, when to gently rebuke and when to bring wisdom to their walk (Isaiah 11:2, 2 Timothy 4:2). I want to open my arms with this sincere love of Christ, devoted to brotherly love, share with those who are in need, practicing hospitality and keep no record of wrongs (Romans 12:9-13). In the name of Jesus of Nazareth I pray, Amen.