Valentine’s Day is at the end of this week complete with it’s mad rush of chocolate boxes, packed restaurants, and overpriced roses. Is there any hope of real love in the midst of a manufactured holiday like this? After all, we celebrate St. Valentine’s martyrdom not necessarily his romantic heart.
For many love is more like martyrdom than romance novel. We all want love. We all offer love in one way or another. And sometimes we offer it in exchange for something else looking for love from people who cannot or will not give it unconditionally.
So often, I find that I try to do the same thing with God when I feel unworthy of His love. I want to do something to earn it back. But, of course, it never left; an important lesson during the season of love.
Let’s look at a famous interaction Jesus had with a random woman at a dinner party. His tenderness with her reveals us how He responds to humility and repentance if we’ll just come to him. And it teaches us so much about love.
1. You are welcome with Jesus
The story goes that Jesus was invited to a swanky uppity-up party at a real mover and shaker’s house. This guy was respected and successful. I don’t know why he wanted to hang out with Jesus but he extended an invite and Jesus showed up.
As sometimes happens when Jesus shows up it wasn’t long before things got weird.
Luke 7 just says “a woman” also came to the party. Apparently she “had lived a sinful life” as if that distinguishes her from anyone. Probably she was the town prostitute and Luke was too polite to say so.
Before I tell you what she did, I want you to put yourself in her place for a moment. Have you ever wondered what leads people to prostitution? It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out that the circumstances must be desperate financially, emotionally, or relationally. I do not know if this woman simply reached the end of her rope, was forced into a lifestyle she couldn’t get out of, or simply thought she had nothing left to give but herself.
The point is that she showed up knowing she was one of the least reputable people in the house that night. She was not invited and did not belong. She had done everything wrong and probably felt deeply unloved. She was looking for love in all the wrong places and it gave her a reputation.
Is that so far off from your story or mine?
Okay, so maybe you’re not a literal prostitute but what about all those things you do to try and feel loved?
Some people eat their cares away. Others distract themselves with endless levels of Candy Crush (BTW – no invites on Facebook, please).
Some turn to pornography to fill a need. Others destroy relationships as quickly as they get into them.
Some people binge watch on Netflix. Others volunteer to assuage their guilt.
We are all represented by the prostitute in the story. We offer ourselves to the gods of food, lust, greed, and distraction. We think there is nothing else to give and offer ourselves up.
Knowing this about ourselves can make us feel like we don’t belong, like we have a reputation, unloved. We bring this baggage into our relationship with God. We wonder how God could forgive us. How could He see me more fully than I do and still love me? So we hold off. We keep God at a distance. We disbelieve.
2. You are treated with kindness
The woman in the story does not stay far away. She was a pariah, no doubt. You can tell by the reaction of the host. He didn’t even have to express his disgust because it was written all over his face. I imagine the woman was ready to accept the scorn she knew was coming.
But as she approached Jesus something happened. A tear welled up, rolled down her worn cheek, and splashed on the Messiah’s feet. After it followed many more to the point that she began to wipe his feet – dirty, unwashed feet – with her hair. Can you imagine having nothing to clean up a mess you just made but your hair?
At this, we get our first glimpse into Jesus. If a random woman I’d never met started shedding tears on my feet the first thing I would do is move them. For one, I’m ticklish. For two, it’s just kind of weird. But not Jesus. He let her continue without saying a word. At least now we know that Jesus wasn’t ticklish.
Jesus was not repulsed by this woman’s past, her reputation, or her social awkwardness. He could tell where she came from and that she didn’t belong and he treated her with kindness anyway.
So why do we think Jesus will judge us harshly if we come to him?
3. You are forgiven
Finally, looking at the woman Jesus forgives her sins. The room filled with incredulity. Who was this guy to be forgiving people? But the woman knew. She accepted.
To the incredulous Jesus told a story about two debtors who could not repay. Who would be more grateful, Jesus asks his wrinkly-nosed host? The obvious answer was the one who owed more.
Jesus went far beyond mere kindness. Jesus defended the woman, shaming his host in the process, and made her look like a hero. You don’t do that for someone you don’t love. Jesus could see past the sin, past the misdirected efforts at love to see a heart that longed for the mercy and grace he was from the Father.
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace” Jesus said.
His Love is Peace
Most love stories are drama. Wouldn’t it be nice if love were peaceful?
Jesus offers peace.
So here’s the call to you and I this Valentine’s Day: Believe and do not doubt that Jesus loves you.
He knows you have been rejected. He knows you look for love in other places.
He also went to a bloody death to accept, defend, and forgive you.