Ah! The sinners that we are. And we are, you know. I understand many are offended when preachers suggest such things these days. One woman particularly comes to mind. “Some of us don’t think of ourselves as sinners,” she famously said on her way out the church door. How like the Pharisees. Don’t you think?
It has occurred to me that at least in the “confessing” churches, we confess our sins every Sunday, but do we really? How much of it has just become a habit—just words—just part of the ritual? Do we even know what sin is in our generation? I am convinced that many don’t.
Kipling had it right when he warned about the future. He said there would be a time when “men are paid for existing and no one pays for their sins.” And are we living in those days? Just a thought.
To understand this story it helps to understand the Bible verse, immediately prior. “Jesus said to the Pharisees that prostitutes and tax collectors will go into the kingdom of God before you Pharisees.” So Jesus had this running conflict with the Pharisees. But who were they?
The Pharisees were self righteous people with blown up feelings of moral and spiritual superiority. They were the intellectual progressives of their day who thought they were better and knew better than the common, ignorant people. They were the elitist snobs of their world. They were not pastors or priests of anything of the sort. They were lay leaders who were filled with self religious pride. And they had this fundamental problem that they maximized everybody else’s faults and minimized their own. They were experts at looking at everybody else’s sins but considered themselves exempt from the same. Sound like anyone you know?
The sinner, the woman, is not the good guy in this story. The Pharisee is not the bad guy. The Pharisee is honestly represented as genuinely a better person (more faithful, less of a sinner) than the sinner. Having said all of the above about the Pharisees, let me add that in many ways they WERE better, more faithful, more “righteous” than many. But as a result he is forgiven little so he loves little.
There is no confusion of good and evil here. Jesus does not call the woman a good person. He knows the one touching him is a dreadful sinner. He also does not attack the Pharisee for his self-righteous attitude. He knows the Pharisee is honestly trying the best he can according to the best that he knows. (How many of us can say that about our lives)?
But then, the point Jesus makes is life is not about the good works we do and neither is it about the bad sins. It is in the love. It is all about the love of God: God for us and us for God. That is what really matters. We all need to learn to love much, even those of us that are forgiven little.