Today we look into Christ’s encounter with the woman who had the reputation of being a sinner, who came to Him when He was visiting a Pharisee and washed His feet with her tears.
The only Gospel account of this story is in Luke 7. This is a touching account of an incident that happened during Jesus’ life and ministry. One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to join him in his home to eat with him with his guests. Jesus accepted his invitation, went in and sat at his table.
The Pharisees were the highly esteemed religious leaders of Jesus’ day and their focus was on external things such as their positions and titles, their traditions and the things that they did to be seen of men. They exacted much from the people but were hypocritical in that they would not do the very things that they taught others that they must do. They added many extra laws to God’s laws and then flaunted their self-proclaimed righteousness and law-keeping before the people. Much of their laws were based upon the traditions of men, rather than the keeping of the laws that God commands.
Mark 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. (See also Matthew 15:1-9)
The Pharisees had a low regard for others, and despised those that did not keep their own traditions which they had added to God’s Word. They had no clue about how to keep God’s laws in their spiritual intent and they just could not see how sinful their own hearts were.
Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (See the whole chapter of Matthew 23)
While Jesus was in the religious leader’s home whose name was Simon, a woman from the city came to the house. She had a reputation in the area as one who was “a sinner” as Simon referred to her in his mind. This woman had heard that the Teacher was there visiting with Simon and she sought Jesus out for she wanted to be forgiven of the lifestyle that she had been living. Her heart was utterly broken over the kind of woman she had been. As she humbled herself and took on the posture of a servant to wash Jesus’ feet, she bent down and wet His feet with her tears.
She was overwhelmed with emotion and the tears gushed out and spilled onto His feet and then she wiped them with her hair, while kissing His feet and anointing them with precious ointment (perfume). All she wanted was to be forgiven and to show her love to the one person that could forgive her. It was an act of utter humility, knowing that Jesus was very different from the religious leaders she knew and that He would love her and accept her.
Luke 7:36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.
7:37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
7:38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
7:39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
Jesus did not forbid the woman from touching Him and from washing His feet. As Simon looked on at the scene taking place he immediately judged Jesus in his heart, as no manof God. Jesus perceived what Simon was thinking and He could tell what Simon thought of this woman and also that he was condemning Jesus for allowing her to do this to Him.
Simon thought to himself “if Jesus really was a Prophet, as all the people make Him out to be, He would know that this woman was a terrible sinner and would never allow such as the likes of her to touch Him with her profane hands, hair, and lips. A prophet of God, according to Simon, would rebuff this sinning woman just as he and his fellow religious leaders would do; tell her to get away and condemn her. In his heart he was comparing himself to her, and in his estimation felt that he was so much better than this woman who was a sinner.
But Jesus did not respond according to what Simon the Pharisee expected of Him. Earlier in the book of Luke, Jesus had said that He came to save sinners, not those who supposed themselves to be “righteous” already and thought that they had no need of forgiveness.
Luke 5:32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Only those who are broken and humbled before God, who confess their sins and determine in their hearts that they will sin no more can receive God’s forgiveness.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The Pharisees had no real understanding of the true forgiveness of God.
Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [living by every Word of God in BOTH the letter and the spirit].
It is only through the application of Christ’s shed blood that a person can be forgiven.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
This woman knew that she was a terrible sinner and that her life was a mess, that she had been living far from God’s righteous standards, and that her only hope, now, was to repent and to change her life to reflect God’s holiness. She sought Christ’s forgiveness of her sins as a free gift of pardoning from Him, the only one who was able to forgive and to cleanse her and who could make it possible for her to have eternal life as a member of His divine Family.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
As was Jesus’ custom when He wanted to teach important lessons about the things of God, He would tell a story. This story (or parable) was recorded by Luke for all those who would read of it, for it contains an important lesson about forgiveness that is very profound, but also very comforting. We all need to understand the deep ramifications of what it means to be forgiven.
Forgiveness is to be freely given with no strings attached, but Jesus, by telling this parable, shows that those who realize how much they have been forgiven and what it has cost the forgiver, tend to show much gratefulness which translates into much LOVE for the one that has shown them mercy. And when one has this kind of love, it is not only expressed to the forgiver but expands out to all others as well.
Luke 7:40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
7:41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
7:42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
7:43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
After the parable, Jesus tested Simon with a question and Simon could clearly see that the one who had owed his creditor a huge amount would love much more compared to the one who only owed a little bit after both were forgiven of their respective debts. Jesus’ question for Simon, was, “So which of them will love him more?” The Pharisee answered that he supposed it would be the one who was forgiven more. Jesus said that he had judged this correctly, but then he turned His attention toward the woman to help the Pharisee apply his own words to the situation with the woman that had come to obtain forgiveness and to show her love to Jesus.
Then Jesus explained the parable which showed Simon his fault, and how this poor woman, whom Simon had judged to be a great sinner, realized how much she had sinned (had owed), expressed much more honor and love than he (Simon) had expressed toward Jesus.
Luke 7:44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
7:45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
7:46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
7:47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
7:48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
The others who were in attendance also criticized Jesus for forgiving this woman, but Jesus paid no attention to them and reassured the woman that He had indeed forgiven her and that her faith in His power to forgive had saved her.
Luke 7:49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 7:50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
It is apparent from Jesus acceptance of this woman that He had forgiven her. Even though she had been living a life of sin, she had come to the realization of how much she was in need of forgiveness, had repented and then wanted to show her love to Jesus in the only way she knew how.
By His defense of her in this story in Luke, Jesus displayed to Simon and the others that He approved of her affectionate expression of her gratitude and love that she showed toward Him. She apparently had heard Jesus’ Gospel message to the crowds or perhaps He had addressed her individually, to believe the Gospel and to repent of all of her sins and to go and sin no more, just as He had commanded the woman caught in adultery. (See John 8:3-11)
When she discovered that Jesus was at the home of the nearby religious leader, Simon the Pharisee, this woman hurried to his home, seemingly oblivious to any social restrictions that could have held her back, or any disparaging comments on the part of class conscience individuals, including Simon himself. She simply did not care who she offended by her presence and by her act of gratitude to her Savior who had so freely forgiven her and saved her from her life of sin.
This woman could perceive the lovingkindness and greatness that was in this Great Teacher and it moved her to humble herself to do what she could for Jesus in performing what would be considered the work of a house servant or slave by washing His feet, and even beyond, by washing them with her tears and kissing and anointing them with perfume. She understood what forgiveness was all about, even more so than the self-righteous Pharisee and his other friends who thought that they were upstanding religious people and thought of others, such as this woman, as beneath them.
The act of this expression of her love and gratitude to Jesus was spurred by her keen awareness of His Greatness as the Lord and Savior compared to her own sense of unworthiness. The others present in the room seemingly did not have this awareness of His greatness. She felt so grateful for His mercy toward her that she wanted to show the love that she had for Him.
Jesus inspired Luke to write of this incident as an example of her exceptional love for Him for all to read and learn from. This is a model for us, Brethren, that we are freely forgiven but it is one who truly understands what it took for him or her to receive God’s abundant forgiveness who will love God with an intense love that is shown forth in the way that they live their lives after being forgiven.
In contrast, the highly esteemed and religious Simon the Pharisee did not even provide Jesus the customary hospitality of offering to have His feet washed as a visitor in his home. We are not told why Simon invited Jesus to come to his house; perhaps he saw Jesus as a fellow teacher; or possibly he was fascinated at Jesus’ growing popularity and was curious as to all the works that he had heard of.
In Jesus’ parable it is somewhat obvious that the one who owed little represented those (who in their own eyes) are not that bad of sinners, yet see others as much worse than they. Simon was one of those who felt he was above this “scandalous” woman who had intruded upon his banquet and was disgusted at the thought that Jesus would even allow her to touch Him. His opinion of himself as being righteous and in no need of forgiveness produced no awareness of indebtedness, no corresponding gratitude, with no outward show of affection; not to mention that he even neglected the customary courtesy of simple foot washing that was typically done for guests in the culture of those times.
And in Simon’s mind, the woman was a sinner and would forever be considered a sinner. He thought “this man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”
Jesus had to enlighten him that this was not so; she used to be a sinner but was now forgiven. Jesus used the parable of the two debtors to teach the two different mindsets as represented by the self-righteous Pharisee and a woman who would forever feel beholden and have great love for Jesus for what He had done for her.
The creditor in the parable symbolically referred to our Father in heaven, and the two debtors represented all sinners who are indebted to Him because of their sins against Him.
In the parable Jesus indicated that Simon and the woman represented the two who were both in debt to the same creditor and neither could repay or meet their obligation to pay back what they owed. Simon didn’t think he had any sins or that if he did, they were not that great, but the woman knew that she was a sinner and that her debt to God was enormous.
This attitude of the Pharisees must have been very much ingrained for we read of another parable that Jesus told that had the same theme with the same kind of message.
Luke 18:9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 18:10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 18:11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
We all have sinned and fall under a type of indebtedness for which no man or woman can even hope to ever repay. But Christ’s atoning sacrifice paid for repentant sinners and in lieu of death, they are given the gift of eternal life; if we go to Him, receive forgiveness for our sins, repent and commit to go and sin no more, just like this woman who had been a sinner apparently had done.
We are told in Romans 3:23 “that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” But in verse 24 Paul follows up by saying that our redemption is through Christ “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Even if we go forward forsaking all of our sins, that does not rectify the past nor will all the well-doing in the world blot out our past sins. But once we have been forgiven, We MUST repent of those sins and then go and sin no more and we MUST turn from and hate the evil of sin so much that we despise even the thought of committing them again.
We are forgiven by Christs’ perfect sacrifice and by His own blood that forgives us of our past sins if we confess our sins and repent of them. And for that, we can feel a profound gratefulness, an appreciation that motivates us to do what we can to show our gratefulness to Christ for what He did for us and for what He had to go through in order for us to have this gift. The fact is, we cannot pay and we have nothing to give, Chris has to forgive it all. No matter the size of the debt, it is our recognition of the enormity of the cost it took to free us from our debt that determines how much we will love Him.
Therefore, Jesus said to the Pharisee, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
The person who knows he has been given much forgiveness tends to feel more obliged to the one who paid off what he owed, than the person who doesn’t think he sins that much; he therefore thinks his indebtedness is not that great. When we acknowledge how much we have been forgiven it compels us to feel obliged to live the way that God tells us to in His Word and who is also the one who paid the debt in order for repentant sinners to live.
That is the key to having a deep abiding love for Jesus Christ, our espoused Husband; In general we love according to the degree we are conscious of how sinful we are in the flesh and what it took for you and me to be freed from our debt!
The Example of Paul and Peter
Like the woman who was a sinner, Paul, too, realized that he had been a very sinful man before his conversion.
1 Timothy 1:13 Who was before a blasphemer [of Jesus Christ], and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 1:14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 1:16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
Not that Paul was shouldering a continuing guilt trip for what he had done in the past, for he writes in Philippians that he had put those things behind and was now going forward toward the Kingdom of God.
Philippians 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 3:15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.
Paul had faith that Christ had blotted out all of His sins, nevertheless he also had a realistic and a profound consciousness of what his sins had cost Christ and recognized his indebtedness to Him.
Paul responded to being forgiven with great zeal and enthusiasm for his calling because of his great love for Jesus and appreciation of what Jesus had done for him in spite of all the evil things that Paul had done in his past. He felt a loving obligation to serve His Lord and Savior in whatever way Christ would require, and thus it fueled his intense desire to preach God’s Gospel message and care for God’s people the way that he did.
1 Corinthians 9:16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
Paul felt immense gratitude toward Jesus for rescuing him from his life of sin and for granting him forgiveness; taking him out of the darkness of deception and sin and rendering to him the glorious hope of eternal life in the future Kingdom of God.
Throughout His epistles, Paul zealously taught about having faith in God’s grace; and he himself responded as a recipient of that grace by fulfilling his calling with enormous energy in doing the Work of God. He worked tirelessly and regardless of whatever he had to suffer or sacrifice in carrying out the great commission as Jesus instructed His disciples in Matthew 28:19-20. We, too, if we have been forgiven and resolve to sin no more, have been delivered from the bondage of sin and placed on the glorious path that leads to eternal life living with Jesus in His Kingdom.
Colossians 1:12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
1:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.
Paul, like the woman who had been a sinner, had a heart that overflowed with love and gratitude toward Jesus. He so passionately and eloquently states in his letter to those in Rome:
Romans 11:32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 11:34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor?
11:35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
Paul was not the only one who was rescued from all of his sins and who in return zealously served God out of a heart-felt love toward Him. Peter was devastated that he had denied Christ the night of Christ’s arrest.
Luke 22:60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. 22:61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 22:62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
Jesus forgave Peter for denying Him during His darkest hour and then Peter went on to become a faithful, mighty apostle preaching and teaching the Gospel right up to his own martyrdom. Peter, too, realized the depth of how much he had been forgiven, he repented, and like Paul and the woman who had been a sinner, was filled with much love for Christ. Later Peter wrote in his epistle about the precious sacrifice of Christ that saves us from our sins and then talks about how we are to be filled with love for God and for one another.
1 Peter 1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 1:20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 1:21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
Both Peter and Paul became tremendous examples of devoting the rest of their lives in submission to Jesus, their Lord and Savior who had freely forgiven them and had set them free. They had been freely forgiven for their sins and they went out into the world and freely gave of themselves to a dying world that needed to hear the Gospel message of how Jesus had come to earth as a man in the flesh and to die as an atonement so that mankind could be saved and go on to live eternally as a son or daughter in God’s Family if they turn from the way of Satan to embrace the ways of God.
The examples of these men and women as recorded in the Bible demonstrate that to be forgiving of others, we need to acknowledge that we ourselves are not perfect and how very much God has forgiven us. The woman washing Christ’s feet is a good lesson that God’s love for us is shown in His forgiveness of us and that the forgiven are then filled with love for their forgiver.
Forgiveness Generates Godly Love Among Those We Forgive
We need to realize that as we needed forgiveness and became filled with God’s love as a result of Him forgiving us through our repentance and our commitment to no longer do those sins; so others will eventually be filled with love for us when they realize how much we have forgiven them.
Many of God’s children have been forsaken and persecuted by even those that they thought loved them the most, but we need to realize that eventually our persecutors will come to see what they have done (like Paul who came to the realization that he had persecuted and had caused to be put to death God’s own precious people). When they come to their senses, either in this life or perhaps at a future time in the Millennium or the Great Main Fall Harvest, they will come to those whom they have hurt to ask for forgiveness, and because of the great sin that they had done against those who were striving to obey God in this life, they too, will be filled with much love toward their forgivers. It could be that those who were the worst sinners will become the most zealous in living and serving God for all of eternity in the future. (Matthew 21:31)
It also helps us to understand that at this time most of those who sin against us are deceived into thinking that they are right and that they are doing God a service when they persecute us; just as Paul did before he was struck down. Once God opens their minds in His own time frame for them and when they realize their error, there will be much repentance and forgiveness and this will in turn generate much love.
The key to having the willingness and ability to forgive others is true godly humility and a proper understanding of how very much God has forgiven those whom He has called out and how very much God has sacrificed in order to atone for us and forgive us. The Creator loved us so much that He gave His life for us when we were still unrepentant sinners.
And we, too, need to forgive others and love them while they are still unrepentant sinners, foreseeing a time in the future when God is going to call them just as He has called us and then they will be able to see their need for forgiveness and will run to God to receive His mercy.
The truly merciful tend to be acutely aware of their own sins and in turn hesitate to condemn others, so they constrain themselves to deal kindly and compassionate with those in need of forgiveness. Nothing moves us to forgive others like the humble realization that God has forgiven us of our sins.
When we were first called to be a part of God’s Family, one of the first things that happened was that God showed us of our great need for His forgiveness and mercy to cover our past sins; we became repentant, confessed our sins and were forgiven, and then went on to be baptized and have hands laid on to receive the Holy Spirit. All of us, as carnal and sinful individuals, needed an ABUNDANCE of God’s mercy and forgiveness of our many sins. We experienced God’s mercy very dramatically at that time, and going forward from there, we still are continuously in need of receiving His mercy on a day to day basis.
So as recipients of so much mercy from Him, we in turn must recognize that fact and in turn show the same kind of mercy to others. Perhaps nothing proves more convincingly that we have been forgiven than our readiness to forgive others.
Love God by Loving His Children
Recognizing God’s mercy for us is a key factor in motivating our expressions of love and mercy toward God and others. If we become complacent and forgetful of what it took on Jesus part to have this mercy available, we can start to take His forgiveness for granted and begin to go through life with little or no gratitude thinking we deserve the kindness and generosity that God showers upon us.
It is essential to understand that gratitude for God’s forgiveness is vital, and that being thankful at all times translates into godly love, because as long as one is complacent about the mercy he has received, his thoughts will center on himself.
The grateful and loving person tends to be highly sensitive to others’ needs and will take action to be merciful to them. On the other hand, an ungrateful person will be more apt to insulate himself from others’ needs because he is too focused on his own perceived unhappiness and misery. When we experience God’s mercy and we are grateful for His mercy that becomes the basis for showing the “love of God” to others and being willing to forgive as He has forgiven us.
Jesus knows what it is like to be human and this has qualified Him to be a merciful and faithful high priest and he can have compassion on those who are weak even though, he Himself, never sinned.
Hebrews 2:16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 2:18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
And in Hebrews 4:14-15 this principle is repeated with the same thought:
Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus came as a man with all the emotions, feelings, propensity for pain and sorrowful experiences of what it is like to be a human. He is not detached and disinterested, nor insulated and isolated from our lives. He says in Psalm 103 that he knows our frame and that He remembers that we are dust. He can have mercy toward us because He understands completely what we are going through for He, too, knows what is like to live in the flesh.
And as we strive to be like Jesus and to have His divine nature, we, also, need to show compassion to our fellow human beings. A number of passages in the New Testament exhort us to use mercy in our relations with each other. Paul exhorts us to forbear with one another and to be forgiving of one another just as Christ has shown those things to us individually.
Ephesians 4:2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Similarly in Colossians, Paul admonished the brethren on how they were to treat each other: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Colossians 3:12-14)
As God has forgiven us, we are commanded to forgive each other. If we let mercy determine the way we feel toward each other, it will move us toward merciful acts. God loves us and has an outgoing concern for us. If God so loves us, then we ought to love each other (1 John 4:11). Thus, we are obligated to forebear with one another and act kindly, in mercy, and with much forgiveness toward others.
The person who is focused on himself and thinks of himself as the center of the world will have a difficult time thinking kindly of others and in wanting to be forgiving and unity will be difficult, if not impossible. A focus on oneself does not permit much room for humbleness, and compassionate thoughts of kind service and for having a forgiving nature toward others.
What are the ways that believers can show their love toward God and toward mankind after being abundantly pardoned by Christ? What are some of the ways in which we, like the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and her hair, can demonstrate that we truly love Him for what He Has done for us? Jesus is no longer here as a human man on earth, therefore we cannot actually show the kind of love and affection toward Him that this woman did. Rather Christ tells us in His Parable of the Sheep and the Goats of how we are to show our love toward Him and it is by helping those who are in need our love and tenderness. He says that when we show love and kindness to even the least of the brethren, we have shown love and kindness unto Him.
Matthew 25: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
25:33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Luke 14:12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. 14:13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: 14:14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
Psalm 41:1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. 41:2 The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.
41:3 The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness.
Having the ability to forgive others and to love them will tend to grow in us as a result of our day to day personal experience with our merciful God as we seek to stay close to Him; God who is quick to forgive those who repent when they see that they have sinned or acknowledge that they slip up from time to time and who then immediately turn to Him for His forgiveness. This awareness fills us with awe for Him and keeps us grateful. There is so much to be grateful for and to love God for, but most importantly, we love Him because He loves us and He has a wonderful plan and purpose for our lives and He wants us to be His children throughout all eternity!
We can show our love by obeying God in all things and then in showing our love toward one another; by opening our hearts wide in listening and then generously giving the benefit of our knowledge, understanding, comfort, encouragement, inspiration, hope, and the wisdom we have learned from our experiences, especially to those who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord. When it is appropriate, we can give correction in meekness, being aware of our own weaknesses. God bids us to open our hands wide to the unfortunate, the sick and the poor; and He says it will be as though we are loaning to Him when we give to those and help hose who are less fortunate than we are.
Galatians 6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
God’s instruction here is that regardless of a person’s station in life we are to do good to them and show kindness “as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men.”
We must not follow in the ways of this world but be a stark contrast to how the people of the world operate. Mercy and kindness is something that we must grow in and develop, and we can do it because Christ dwells in our hearts through the power of His Spirit which enables us to have the same kind of qualities that He has.
It is so important that in spite of all the cruelty in the world shown to us, we are commanded to show the world a better way. We must follow the example of Jesus, who was compassionate and kind to everyone that crossed His path. When He had to rebuke certain people, He did so speaking the truth in love.
To have compassion or to feel sympathy is to put ourselves in another person’s shoes, to have the ability to get inside the other person’s skin and into his heart to see things with his eyes and from his view of what he is going through and what he is experiencing; we feel his pain and we want to alleviate it if possible or to try help him out as much as we humanly can. We in essence: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” Romans 12:15.
This is sympathy in the literal sense of the word. Sympathy is derived from two Greek words, “syn” which means together with, and “paschein” which means to experience or to suffer with. Sympathy means experiencing things together with the other person, feeling in your heart what he is going through.
So showing mercy is also a choice we make through a decision of our will, motivated by obedience to God and His command to have mercy.
This is something that for the most part is not exemplified that much in our world. If it were, there would be no wars, hunger, killing, adultery, domestic violence or abuse or any kind of harm done to others, for if we really tried to treat each person the way we would want to be treated, and more importantly how God would want us to treat each other with mercy, then the world would be a beautiful, peaceful place for all mankind to live, work, have families and to enjoy all that life has to offer without fear of what others would do to us.
We know humanly, it seems almost impossible to operate with mercy at all times, but as believers this is our assignment as is exhorted to us in so many of the Scriptures, to exemplify to the world around us what it means to be merciful and forgiving.
Philippians 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
Having this disposition is an important factor toward making an effective witness as we share a relationship with God and as we show the godly qualities that are part of His character. This kind of mercy that Jesus teaches is not humanly derived. It can only come through Him and by the power of His Spirit dwelling within us.
Love God and Show God’s Mercy by Teaching the Gospel of Salvation
King David asked God to forgive him of his sins and in David’s gratefulness of what God had done for him, he was filled with great love and he then made a commitment that he would teach other sinners the ways of righteousness and help them to be converted. This is another example of how we, too, can show our love to God and it is by helping others to know the way of salvation. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Psalm 51:9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 51:11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 51:12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 51:13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. 51:14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
We are to be compassionate in all that we do and one of the most important ways we can be compassionate is to teach others about the wonderful ways of God and how they too can be saved and become members of His Family.
Therefore, another out-pouring of God’s great mercy is the love that God shows by warning mankind through His Word and by sending His people to “cry aloud and lift up their voice like a trumpet and in showing His people their transgression.”
The men and women who will take a stand for truth; warning their brothers and sisters (and the world) to repent of their sins and of their idolatry are showing the mercy and kindness of God to them by giving them a chance to repent and turn to Him and all His ways.
Isaiah 58:1 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
Ezekiel 33:8 When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 33:9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
Ezekiel 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
It was by the willingness of others who committed themselves to do the will of God that we heard the Gospel and had the opportunity to repent and turn our lives around so that we may attain to eternal life and to become a member of God’s own Family. It is out of our love and gratefulness of what God has done through others to help us see our need for forgiveness and repentance that we ought to help others to have the same kind of opportunity. It is imperative that we warn others when they are sinning and teach them the things that God has taught us. This is true godly LOVE when we extend to others the MERCY that God has for them!
God’s Mercy and Forgiveness are Everlasting
When we can open our eyes to the fact and study His Word with understanding, we are informed by the writers of Scripture that every act of God, from the very first beginnings of His plan in eternity past until our present day, are all in accordance to His great mercy and kindness.
Psalm 103:17 refers to this when the psalmist writes, “The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting.”
Throughout all time God has abundantly and graciously showered out His mercy in everything He does and for all that He provides. God is the same and He is unchanging, and the Bible’s writers show God extending mercy in an almost endless variety of ways and we know and believe that God will continue to do so throughout all eternity.
If He is our model for us (His own children), then as loving children we too must show forth mercy throughout eternity for He says be “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36) and if He is unchanging, we will be unchanging; and if we show mercy to others we will be like Him.
Notice these truths from the Psalms in regard to God’s plenteous and everlasting forgiveness and mercy:
Psalm 25:10 All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Psalm 86:5 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
Psalm 86:15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
Solomon gives us good counsel in keeping God’s mercy and truth and writing these things on our heart.
Proverbs 3:2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
3:3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: 3:4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
God’s mercy will be for all time and will never cease.
Isaiah 54:10 For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
Simon and the woman represented two types of sinners. Though we are all sinners, some sins are more evident than others. Simon felt he was a much better person than this woman whom he looked down upon. He had not sinned as openly or in such a scandalous way as she, nevertheless, they both owed the creditor regardless of the size or type of their sins and neither one of them could repay their debt. Both had the death sentence hanging over them, for even a little sin is worthy of death, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
We all are indebted by varying degrees or levels of sin and we must not be quick to condemn others whose sins may not be as inconspicuous or hidden, as perhaps this highly respectable Pharisee’s would be. No one has the means to pay their debt on their own, no matter how great or how little. The fact is, that it is only by God’s forgiveness that we are released of that debt, by the atoning blood of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. He is the only one who can pay it for us.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:14, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:”
This occurs, not because we deserve mercy by being merciful or forgiving of others, but because we cannot receive the mercy and forgiveness of God unless we have repented. We cannot claim to have repented of our sins if we are unmerciful towards the sins of others or unkind to any person by our thoughts, words or actions. This is what being converted is about, and having God’s Holy Spirit makes it possible. And if we are not showing this kind of mercy and forgiveness to others, as Christ has shown mercy and forgiveness to us, then we need to cry out for this fruit of the Spirit to be more abundant as part of our character and strive to grow in this area; as only the merciful will be in God’s Kingdom. It is ridiculous to even image that God would appoint saints to rule under Him in His kingdom who are unforgiving and cruel to others.
Let us never be like Jonah who could not forgive the Ninevites even after they had repented. When God sends correction to this world many of the worst sinners that have ever lived will come to see how wicked they have lived; after hearing the preaching, warning, and seeing the awesome works of God some (perhaps many) will come to see their need for forgiveness and repent. Will we be like Jonah who had a chip on his shoulder because God forgave them and relented from wiping them from off the face of the earth?
Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. 4:2 And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
Before God rebuked Jonah for his refusal to have pity and mercy for the people of Nineveh, we are told what happened as a result of Jonah’s preaching.
Jonah 3:6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
3:7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:
3:8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
3:9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
Nineveh was a horrible nation that did many wicked and violent things; if you do any research on ancient Nineveh you will see some of the cruel things that they did to the people of other nations; and yet when they repented God forgave them. If He can forgive ancient Nineveh, He can forgive anyone who sincerely wants to repent and be forgiven.
James wrote recently in his post expounding the Book of Jonah of how Jonah became angry because the people of Nineveh repented at his preaching and God forgave them and relented of sending the punishment that He had planned for them as a nation if they did not repent.
A Lesson in Forgiveness and Mercy
Jonah 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
“Jonah had a problem, he did not want these gentiles to repent; he wanted God to destroy them. This is typical of the attitude of people today who tend to bear grudges and have trouble forgiving one another over the sufferings of the past.
4:2 And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
4:3 Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.
Jonah was so angry and bitter that he wanted to die, so as not to have to live in a world containing Gentiles! God therefore gave Jonah an object lesson to bring him to repent of his anger and hatred.
Jonah 4:4 Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?
4:5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.
4:6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
4:7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
4:8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
4:9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
4:10 Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
4:11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more then sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
God then reveals his great mercy towards humanity; teaching Jonah a lesson in humility and mercy; revealing how mercy will be shown to ALL sincerely repentant humanity at their appointed time.
As God’s kings and rulers under Christ, we, too, will need to extend forgiveness and mercy to all those of the world who repent just as God extended His mercy for us. And as we have been forgiven much for all of our transgressions and because of the love we have for having received of God’s mercy, we will be able to employ much forgiveness and mercy to all of humanity as each in their order comes to repentance and will be in need of our lovingkindness to them and our willingness to help guide all peoples from every nation in the Ways of God.
In this way we can express our love toward our Great and Merciful God and instead of washing the feet of Jesus, we will be symbolically washing the feet of all those who want to become faithful followers of Jesus.
It is interesting that Jesus, too, showed His love to His disciples on that last Passover that He kept with them by tenderly washing their feet and then He said to them to go and do likewise. (Was He perhaps thinking of the day that the woman who had been a sinner had come to Him and had shown her great love for Him by washing His feet?)
John 13:12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13:13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
13:14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
13:15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
13:16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
13:17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
Jesus Christ is the example we are to emulate, and He has given each of His children an abundant demonstration of His forgiveness and mercy and because of it we have much to love Him for.
Just as the woman who had been a sinner is a touching example of showing love and compassion to Jesus in washing His feet with her tears and hair and anointing them with fragrant oil, full of gratitude for the fact that her Lord and Savior had been so exceedingly merciful and compassionate to her; she is an excellent example of one who loved much because she recognized that God loved her much and had showed her much mercy and compassion.
In 1 Peter 1:16 we are exhorted to be holy for God is holy and the same principle applies when it comes to being forgiving to others: we are to be merciful as God is merciful. God will not and He cannot change from what He is, but we must change and be growing to be like Him.
The one who has been given so much in the way of God’s mercy and forgiveness, the same loves much in return and will want to keep God’s laws and commandments out of love for Him; he or she will also show mercy to others just as God has shown mercy to him. Let us commit ourselves to be merciful as He is merciful.
Luke 6:36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.