“And [Jesus] said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’.”
~Luke 7:50 (NRSV).
The gospels show that Jesus is right at home putting people politely back in their humble place where it’s necessary, and that’s perhaps what Simon the Pharisee might’ve felt after this little interlude where Jesus is anointed and foot-bathed by the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50).
The woman had sinned much and hence gave much to receive the Lord’s mercy; a concept clearly beyond the Pharisee.
The Jesus-connection occurs many levels below the piousness of the self-righteous, those not known to uncommon compassion.
This is something we ought never to forget. The Jesus-agenda cuts to ribbons our linear justice. Jesus’ justice is dynamic, all-knowing, omniscient justice. It convinces, compels and convicts; our hearts opened in radically pungent truth, as it’s revealed, laid out bare, perhaps as we’d never seen it. Yes, we’re forgiven for thinking like Pharisees, at times, too, as our justice leaps forth. The truth lags.
Grace Known + Faith Shown = Salvation
Is God’s grace available to the proud sinner who’s not convinced, compelled or convicted to repent? “Not yet,” might be the best answer. Grace certainly is available to all, at all times. But, it’s only any good if the soul that approaches is ready.
And still, grace alone is no good without faith:
“For by grace you have been saved though faith.”
~Ephesians 2:8a (NRSV).
We see here that whilst God must bring something to the table of salvation (i.e. grace) we must also bring something to the table of salvation — our faith. And that to live for God by taking risks of love through kind and courageous actions we’d not take otherwise.
This sinful woman who was forgiven much, though her sins were great, took an extraordinary risk to do what she did. If it wasn’t for someone like Jesus there, she’d have been likely thrown out and roundly abused. Such is the way that the world often treats love.
We Can Afford Risks With God
Though faith involves risk, what we don’t have to risk is the response of God. God always honours our faith-enacted deeds. Never do we get into trouble with God for showing faith. Indeed, we know it’s impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6).
Still, we don’t risk enough, though we recall times when we perhaps did risk and back then we often risked a lot.
It beckons us, doesn’t it, to stretch out our hand for forgiveness, for God’s mercy. And grace remains, meeting God’s acceptance via faith.
Only faith can save us, and sure, we might already be ‘saved’ but how saved (from a ‘lived reality’ perspective) are we today? Is our faith alive, relevant, humming, out-spoken via our character, demonstrative, exigent, active — and, above all, compassionate?
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.