Reading: Luke 7:36 to 8:3
Labels are a dangerous thing. Labels are barriers that can inhibit ministry. Simon the Pharisee labels people. The woman is a ‘sinner’. This means to keep away from her lest she make him unclean as well. Jesus is a ‘teacher’. He has some good things to share and maybe a few are even applicable to Simon’s life. But teachers are human, just like him, so they require no allegiance, no commitment, no special status. And this ‘teacher’ allows a ‘sinner’ to touch Him, so Jesus is almost a sinner too; certainly He is at least ‘unclean’.
We too like to label. We like to label people because it allows us to put them in boxes and because it allows us to keep them at a distance. And like the Pharisee, these labels sometimes allow us to dismiss people from our thoughts like he did with the woman. She was invisible to him even though she stood crying in his own home, right there in front of him. How often have we driven or walked past a homeless person with a sign asking for help? How often have we ignored the unkempt woman sleeping in the back pew during church? We notice them briefly, apply our label – lazy, drunk, outcast… – and move on.
Jesus said to Simon, “He who is forgiven little lives little”. For the woman she is forgiven much as Jesus restores her to righteousness. As a new creation she can now go on to love others as Jesus first loved her. For Simon, he is unwilling to see past a label so he cannot even begin to offer forgiveness for the judgment of others that he had in his heart. Therefore he will also live others little.
What allowed Jesus to look past ‘sinner’ and to see the brokenness inside the woman? What can we do to look past lazy, drunk, outcast… to begin to know what is broken inside of others? The key is in the reverse of Jesus’ statement to Simon. May we, as followers of Christ and as witnesses to His love, also offer much love to those in need of healing so that they too can begin to experience His forgiveness and can then begin to find healing for the brokenness in their lives. May we not stop at the label but step beyond the barriers that keep us from sharing Christ with the world in need.