Oakley Chapel Rogers AR | Growing Deeper: Love, Sin and Forgiveness

This past Sunday at Oakley Chapel UMC in Rogers AR, I preached on Luke 7:36-8:3 with an emphasis on verses 47 and 48. The story is about Jesus being invited into a religious leader’s home. While Jesus is there, a woman who is described as “a sinner,” begins to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears, dry his feet with her hair, kisses and anoints Jesus’ feet to which the host takes great issue with Jesus. Jesus knowing the Pharisee’s thoughts explains to him that he failed to show basic hospitality, while this “sinful” woman showed extreme hospitality. Jesus went on to explain the reason this woman acted as she did, by telling a parable about two debtors who had been forgiven of their debts. Jesus said in verse 47 & 48: “I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” I went on to say: “God has called us to proclaim to our community (Sinners): “God loves you, and your sins are forgiven. There is no pre-qualifier for God’s love and forgiveness – it is a free gift called GRACE.”

After, the service I was blessed to be asked by one of our Connection Groups to come to their class to have a conversation. I was specifically asked about the statement: “There are no pre-qualifiers for God’s love and forgiveness; primarily God’s forgiveness Don’t people have to repent before they can be forgiven?” This an excellent question that I believe should be discussed, so I will give you my response; however, I pray it will stimulate more discussion.

My response is: “Love and forgiveness are God’s gifts given to us and our response is repentance.” Repentance comes from the Greek Μετάνοια [metanoia], which means to turn away from, to move in a completely new direction. However, for most of us this does not happen overnight, but it is a process. When I first became a follower of Jesus, I had sin habits that I had to unlearn. I had to reprogram my thinking, renew my mind (Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God…”). Grace is a free gift of God that was at work long before I was aware (Prevenient Grace is the Wesleyan term), and repentance is turning around to pick up the present God has given. However, like any new gift there is a learning curve on its use or implementation. Although I have been a follower of Jesus for 35+ years, I’m still learning how to best implement this present of God’s grace because I am a sinner who needs this new gift every day.

“What is SIN?” In this article I will not have time to delve into a deep theological explanation; however, I will give you the working definition one of my seminary professors gave me. I am not sure it was original with him, and I cannot remember exactly which professor it was; but I like it. “Sin is when we are in wrong relationship with God, Others, or Ourselves.” Grace is God applying whatever is needed to repair that broken relationship; and repentance is our response of obedience, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to a new way of being in relationship. Sin is not some list of arbitrary rules that are listed somewhere, nor does the Bible list every sin of humanity; sin is simply broken relationship. With this working definition of sin; Jesus rightly says: “I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The world around us needs to hear: “God loves you, and your Sins are Forgiven!” This act will draw people to Christ and His church, not run them off. This is especially true for those who feel we have shunned them or expect them to have “it all together” before they enter into any relationship with us. The simple truth is God calls us to love the created, and God takes on the burden of dealing with the rest of humanity’s “stuff.”

Rev. Shane Pair