My pastor talked a couple weeks ago about the story recorded in Luke 7 of the sinful woman who came to a party, uninvited, and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. She then lavished her expensive perfume upon his feet. Simon, the host of the party and a Pharisee (church leader of the day), assumed that Jesus must not be a prophet because if he were, he would know what a sinner the woman was. His assumption was that if Jesus knew this woman was a prostitute, he would reject her. Certainly Simon would have.
But Simon was wrong on all counts. Not only did Jesus know what she did for a living, he knew that her heart had been changed by her faith in him. He knew that she was a new woman on the inside and he forgave her for her sins. Simon had no idea what was going on in the woman’s heart. He never would have known because he absolutely would never have allowed himself to be seen with her long enough to find out.
As I thought back on this story today I wondered how many walking wounded we have in our churches every Sunday. How many men and women have messed up their lives, fully acknowledged their sin, been forgiven by God…but still feel wounded because “the church” in general still sees them as a sinner? (Aren’t we all?)
When we make a mess of our lives, the church should be the first place we find comfort but often times people like this withdraw from everything…including the church. Because if their sin has been made public or has spread through the gossip circles, they get the same side-ways glances and hushed tones there that they might get at the grocery store or the soccer field. Too often, they aren’t made to feel loved and welcomed. Because too many times “the church” acts like Simon instead of Jesus.
Now, this is not true of all churches. When I say “the church” I mean it in a general sense…any organized religious group. But all churches have one thing in common…they are populated by humans. And humans will disappoint.
Has this happened to you? If it hasn’t yet it’s just a matter of time. At some point, a human in a church will let you down. Bank on it. We all mess up. But just because you have been hurt by someone in a church doesn’t mean you’ve been hurt by God.
We can ascribe God-like characteristics to the church. But we really shouldn’t ascribe church-like characteristics to God. We get all turned upside down when we do that. God sees the parts of us that no one else does. He knows if we are truly sorry for our sins even if the woman on the second pew doesn’t. God is Jesus, not Simon.
So, if you are being a Simon; stop it. You don’t know all that’s going on in people’s lives. We are simply called to love God and love others. If you’re showing Jesus’s love to people who have walked (or crawled) through life-altering lessons, keep it up! And if you’re the woman with the perfume; hold your head up, let Jesus dry your tears and don’t worry about what Simon says.