Right now I’m preaching a sermon series on Ephesians. Paul says that at one point we were all dead spiritually speaking (Eph 2:1). He even says we "were by nature children of wrath like everybody else." (Eph. 2:3) There’s no getting around it in Paul. We are all in the same boat. If we have not made the transition from death to life by appropriating God’s gracious gift (Eph. 2:8), then we are still dead.
This is really good news because Paul tells us that God made us alive even when we were dead! (Eph. 2:4) So even if we are dead spiritually, God is more than willing to make us alive in Christ.
In his commentary on Ephesians, N. T. Wright makes a connection between Ephesians 2:8-10 which discusses God’s gracious gift and Luke 7:36-51 which is the story of the ‘sinful woman.’ I think this is an appropriate link to the Gospel, but leaves me with a question that causes me concern.
The story is about a woman who comes in and pours perfume on Jesus’ feet while he is at the party of a Pharisee. Simon, the Pharisee, sees what is taking place and begins thinking that if Jesus was really a prophet, he would know what kind of woman this was and not let her touch him.
Well, apparently, Jesus did know what kind of woman this was and took her actions as a sign of gratitude that she had been forgiven. Jesus then puts Simon on the spot by asking him who would be more grateful (or love more), the one who was forgiven a debt of a few dollars, or of many dollars. Even Simon knew the one who was forgiven the most would be the most grateful.
Jesus then points out how Simon didn’t even show the smallest expression of graciousness or gratefulness in welcoming Jesus into his home. Yet, this woman continued to wash his feet with her tears and anoint him with her perfume. Why the difference? Simon didn’t see his need, but the woman did. Because of that Simon didn’t offer any expression of love, but the woman did.
As I reflect on being dead in my trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), and how God has made me alive even when dead, I realize how much like Simon I am. That leads me to the question that causes me concern: What kind of response do I offer? It seems like going to church once a week, praying on the run, rushing through Scripture, or any other type of spiritual ‘guilt’ appeasement doesn’t reflect the kind of depth and gratitude God’s gracious act deserves. You know what I mean…the things we do to say we did them. Our hearts might not be in the act, or we might feel that we ‘just don’t have the time’ so we do what small things we can so we can call it done. Do our practices reflect what we know about our need and God’s response?
Maybe we love little because we don’t understand or realize the depth of our need and the extent of our dilemma. When we do get a sense of that dilemma and what God has done so we might be free, then we might be able to start living lives of grateful response to God’s act in Christ. I have a feeling our lives will begin to look vastly different.