Jesus’ Formula for Love and Forgiveness – by Tim Priestley

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Jesus often taught others by calling to light comparisons between different people.  His perspective on these differences were often surprising–sometimes offensive to those who listened.  But they always made for compelling illustrations.  I’m going to read from a passage where Jesus highlights the different actions between a hospitable religious man and an extravagant sinful woman.


Luke 7:36-50 (NLT)

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”  40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”  “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

 41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”  “That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

 47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

 49 The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”  50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Jesus’ formula for love and forgiveness

Here, Jesus is invited to a Pharisee’s home for a dinner.  This Pharisee—his name was Simon—was hospitable (he invited Jesus to his home), served Jesus (had dinner prepared for him) and respected Jesus (called him “Teacher”).  But Jesus contrasts Simon’s response to Jesus with this “sinful woman’s” actions.  She stands behind Jesus and weeps—raining down tears on Jesus’ feet.  She wipes his soaked feet with her hair.  She kisses his feet over and over.  She pours expensive perfume on his feet. 

It doesn’t say what her sins were—just that she was known as a sinful woman.  So, quite possibly, she was a prostitute that was known and probably shunned by the religious community—by these Pharisees at this dinner party.  She came to this dinner party presumably uninvited and unannounced.  In light of that, her actions here are bold, dramatic, extravagant, risky, audacious.  Jesus contrasts her actions with Simon’s—who is polite, safe, comfortable, calculated, analytical, somewhat disconnected.

The principle Jesus teaches in his short illustration and then by calling out Simon in his comparison with the woman is simiple—yet profound.  Those who have been forgiven little love little—and those who have been forgiven much love much.

Personal sharing

I became a Christian on my 16th birthday.  Before that time I had:

  • Never smoked
  • Never did drugs of any kind
  • Never tasked alcohol
  • Never kissed a girl
  • Never said a cuss word

Intellectually, I knew I needed forgiveness.  But in my heart, I didn’t feel I was that bad of a person.  So my perspective was—I’ve been forgiven of much less than other people.  So my first few years as a Christian—my love was superficial.  I was less in touch.

Since I became a Christian—now 27 years ago—I’ve sinned more and sinned worse than I did before I was baptized.  But I came to realize that it’s not the number of sins or the degree of sin that affect my ability to love little or much.  Rather, it’s my perspective on my sin—and on the forgiveness I’ve received.  We all missed the mark—we all fall short—in the big picture, none of us is any closer.

Three questions of the heart

It comes down to:

  1. Do you take responsibility for your sins? (Do you see your sin and own it?)
  2. Are you broken by your sin?  (Do you understand how you’ve hurt God?)
  3. Do you fully accept God’s forgiveness?  (Do you see your debt as totally cancelled?)

We can’t fully love—whether God or others—until we accept God’s love for us.  Until we understand and accept his forgiveness to us. 

Remembering Christ

That’s why we’re asked to remember Jesus.  To remember his body, his blood—the sacrifice he made to show his love and buy our forgiveness.  It’s really hard—perhaps impossible—to fully obey his commands (his greatest commands) until we spend time contemplating and owning his love.

The true POWER—the SECRET—of loving is receiving love.  Each of the following scriptures starts with what God has given us—then tells us what we need to do.  We can’t give until we receive.

1 John 4:19  We love because he first loved us.

Ephesians 5:1-2   Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God

Ephesians 4:32   Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Luke 6:36  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

So it wasn’t the amount or degree of sin the woman committed that inspired her to a greater passion than Simon.  It was simply her recognition of her sin-and ability to receive Jesus’ forgiveness.  She drank deeply of his mercy and grace.

Upward Call

What does your love toward God look like today? 

Is it analytical, calculated, comfortable, safe

Or is it passionate, risky, extravagant, costly, embarrasing or perhaps offensive to some? 

Your love is a direct reflection on how much forgiveness you see that God has given you.  Use this time now to remember—and get in touch.


Our merciful and kind Father, help our love towards you to reflect your love towards us. Help us to truly feel how extravagant your love is. Help us to grasp how passionate and fired up you are about each of us. Help us to experience how vulnerable you make yourself for our sake.

Father, we trust Jesus formula for love and forgiveness. We take him at his word – that we will love more…as we comprehend your love for us. We pray in the name of our kind and merciful saviour, Amen.

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