By Kevin Peet
I have always favored the story at the end of Luke 7, about the woman who showed love for Jesus by… well, “standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” (Luke 7:38)
I believe that I understand what was going on in her heart at that moment, and I have even had the presumptuous, impish thought that I shall instantly recognize her in Heaven.
It’s very important in this story to see that she already is forgiven, and that her actions are her heartfelt response to this forgiveness. Jesus says of her, “her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much”, and the logic is “she is showing much love, which is a demonstration that she has been forgiven much.”
Please notice something: her gratitude, her heartfelt worship was expressed not by “walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8), nor by “glorifying God with a loud voice” (Luke 17:15). Instead, as I see her, she was drawn powerfully to Jesus, and at the same time she was acutely aware of her unworthiness to be near Him. Her love and devotion overcame this, but only partially, and she she did what small thing she could: in an overflow of gratitude, she washed His feet with her tears and her hair, and kissed His feet and anointed them with perfume. A strange way to show devotion? Yes, undoubtedly; and yet our Lord received this as her love and her gratitude, and commended her to the Pharisee, and indeed to the rest of the world, through His Word to us.
The “worship wars”, with disagreements about style and content and tradition, have been notorious in the past couple of decades in the Church in America, and sadly I too have made my selfish contribution to the conflict. At the same time, there’s a value in recognizing that the ways in which love and gratitude can be expressed are many, many, many! For some it is singing loudly, for others some kind of dancing, for others quiet meditation, for others kneeling, and for some it is preaching or teaching. Each of these, if from a godly motivation, brings pleasure to our Father (Heb. 11:6) and glory to our Savior. Some say that loving and being loved are the fundamental needs of all human beings, and I will add that, for me, bringing glory to Jesus is even more bedrock than that— it is the purpose of everything.