1 John 4:19 (NIV)
We love because he first loved us.
Simon is furious. He feels throwing up. In his very home, he has invited the most popular and influential person in the city. But he is wondering why and how this woman from the street got in. Has she been invited by the servants? Did she just sneak in with the disciples? Simon does not remember an RSVP from an unknown woman. This is his home, he has every right to be indignant.
The woman has now taken the attention of everybody. She kneels down right at Jesus' feet. She is sobbing. Simon can't stand to see her hot tears dripping like rain into his main guest's feet (The Message). Now she is unlocking her hair. Before Simon can say anything, the woman is now wiping his feet with her hair—now even kissing his feet. She has crashed the party! She is a joy stealer.
Simon the Pharisee has invited Jesus to his house. But Simon has not shown any of the common courtesy for invited guests. There is not a handshake or a kiss. No offer of taking his coat. Simon knows etiquette. He has the education. He is highly regarded by the community. He is a prominent member of the church. The woman is not known by her name. No training like Simon has. Not moneyed. Not a religious meeting attendee. But this day, she comes to Jesus, overcomes her fear and shame. She takes out an expensive perfume and anoints Jesus' head—the honor he deserves. It was a stark contrast from Simon’s snobbish treatment of Jesus.
Simon actually recovered from a horrible disease (Matthew 26:6). His leprosy isolated him from the society for a time. Every time people saw him, they would yell “Unclean! Unclean” (Leviticus 13) But he got fully healed. We should expect him to show compassion to this woman. But, he has nothing but scorn. Pastor Max Lucado observes, "Simon's ‘love' is calibrated and stingy. Her passion is extravagant and risky."
Jesus uses the incident to make a point. He tells the story of two borrowers. One has much greater debt than the other. Both of them cannot pay their debts. Fortunately, their lender forgives them both. Jesus asked Simon, "Who do you suppose loved him (the loaner) more after that?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt." Jesus points, "A person who is forgiven little shows only a little love."
Is this the reason why many of us fail in loving others? Simon does not think that he needs forgiveness. He knows the commandment: Love God and love others. But he is not seeking it, not with Jesus. We wonder how Simon can show love when he has not experienced. There is nothing to give. He may not understand when he hears these words: "We love because he first loved us' (1 John 4:19, NIV). Don't we make efforts to love others? How many times have we tried loving those who ruin our joy? How many times have we tried to show kindness to those who defame us in public? How often have we failed? The first step is essential. We can love only if we have accepted God’s mercies.
Or if we have experienced his love, perhaps like Simon, we tend to forget it. Simon apparently has forgotten that he was healed from leprosy. Leprosy was a dreaded disease back then. It could represent sin that infected the whole of our being. But like Simon, we have been made clean. In Jesus, we have experienced this love. Not only that God has canceled our debt from him. He has given us a gift when we asked for forgiveness. He has given us eternal life. "God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him," John says. Then he also says, "This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." (1 John 4:9). If you continue reading, another gift is given with the eternal life. "And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us" (I John 4:13). He has poured him into our heart. So, not only that we can love God back, we can also love others as He loves us (Romans 6:5). He is our power to love. This might be the missing link in our struggle to be patient and kind. We find it hard to forgive others of their shortcoming or to be understanding of those who are helplessly weak and failing.
Pastor Lucado says, "The secret of loving is living loved." How many times do we fail Jesus even after He has restored us and given us eternal hope and life? He forgives our failings—our temper tantrum, our insincerity, our self-centered love (of self, family only). If Jesus is patient with us, can we not be patient with others? If Jesus is kind to us every day, we certainly can be kind to each other.
(Idea lifted out from Max Lucado, A Life Worth-giving, 2012)