I couldn’t understand why the last words of this story made my heart uneasy.
This woman publicly known as a sinner slips into the same room with Jesus at a dinner party and begins to wash his feet with her costly ointment and her hair, weeping. The other guests shoot glares and make judgments not about the woman [for her reputation outruns her] but about the character of Jesus. For if he only knew who was touching him, he would not let his reputation be stained by such filth.
Jesus slices through their judgement by asking this question, “Who would love more? He [or she] who is forgiven less or forgiven more?” And while they presented the obvious answer, their hearts were numb to the reality. Jesus turns to the woman and says,
“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47 ESV)
Those last words caused my heart to squirm a little.
You see, I was raised to be a “good girl.” I grew up in a family that claimed Christianity; we went to church, read our Bibles, didn’t use profanity, dressed modestly, held Bible studies, avoided any secular movies or music. As long as I can remember, I have tried my best to obey my parents and earn their favor by staying within the lines of Christianity. I never participated in the “common sins” that people gossiped about; never slept around, did drugs, rebel, or use foul language. I often had mothers come up to me and sigh, “Oh, I wish my daughter was just like you. You are such a good girl.”
And then stories like this in the Bible would prick my heart and keep me up at night, pondering.
For me the gospel always went down smoothly, but I usually left the table still feeling hungry. I struggled with secret shame, I fought depression, I questioned God’s love, and I was exhausted trying to make myself and others believe that I was good enough.
I watched this woman collapse at Jesus’ feet who “loved much” only because she understood the great distance between her heart’s filthiness and His gleaming holiness. That’s where we differed, I discovered. I was convinced that somehow I could measure up to God’s perfection — that somehow my goodness would reach His. And even when I did stumble and the shame and guilt came to choke me, I only needed to compare myself to someone else for reassurance that I was still a “better girl” than they were. But the anxiety and pressure always remained.
You see, I had swallowed a carefully crafted lie that when presented the gospel says, “Well, there isn’t that much to forgive.”
I would have never said that out loud, but I believed it. And maybe you have too.
It robs us, sisters.
When we believe this lie, His love becomes a shallow puddle and not the mighty deep ocean that it is.
That’s the crooked power of sin: it blinds us. We see ourselves not as we really are, but as our hearts convince us.
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2 ESV)
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
The truth is: there are no good girls. And let me tell you why that is GOOD NEWS:
There is a Good God who redeems and washes sinners.
Every “good deed” I’ve done is a stench compared to the Holy One who never acts from an evil heart. Sin is never just skin-deep. It is a sickness of the heart that pollutes everything I say, do, and believe. My motives for praise, power, and pleasure destroy any “goodness” you may see on the outside and reveal a heart obsessed with itself. There is a war within me, a battle that rages on daily.
Yet when I see myself as I really am, my heart becomes ripe for the gospel and desperate for good news. And that’s exactly what happened when I began to step closer to Jesus and open His Word … the mirror unfogged and I could see not only the ugliness of my heart but the vast richness of His love.
The gospel became a banquet that I could feast on daily, always leaving my soul full and thankful and overwhelmed.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14 ESV)
“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3 ESV)
The gospel always insults “good girls” but only to set us free.
Trust me, I know — I was blind but now I see.