The phrase “Those who have forgiven much, love much” has been swirling about in my head the last couple days. A friend of mine said it to me while we were on the phone a couple months back. I knew it came from scripture somewhere but, at the time, didn’t have much meaning to me….until now.
I fell pretty hard in my Christian walk. I didn’t just trip, I fell smack dab on my face and went skidding, what seemed to be a good hundred feet or more. I didn’t just stub my toe, it was a whole body fall. I would say that I was pretty unrecognizable, even to myself. It felt like was swimming but I didn’t realize how deep I was. I found myself in the impact zone and didn’t even see the wave coming. I was officially in the spin cycle. I didn’t know if I was coming or going and couldn’t make heads or tails of where I was at. Every time I went up for air, I was slammed again with another wave. It reminded me of the time when I almost drowned as a teenager. As soon as the top of my head touched the surface of the water, I opened my mouth, gasping for air. I fought to take in a deep breath but I was pushed back under. What was suppose to be air, water rushed in, over, around, swallowing me up like a bottomless grave. I was in the process of dying yet fighting for my life. Panic set in. Flailing and grasping and clawing. But at what? Nothingness. It seemed like the very friends that encouraged me to go for a swim had left me to drown…maybe even they were the ones that were pushing my head under. How could I go from fighting spiritual warfare at the beginning of the week, speaking life from my lips, to swimming in the deep by week’s end?
I’ve felt so much loss. So much grief. Unexplainable despair. I’ve never been suicidal my entire life, yet I’ve thought about ending my life, a lot. Or just disappearing. I’ve actually thought about that quite a bit. I picture myself on some tropical island, with the expanse of the ocean in front of me and miles of sand on either side of me, with very little people on it, if any at all. I imagine complete serenity. The gentle winds, blowing through my hair. My skin sun kissed. No troubles or worries. But then I remember and reality sets in.
I think about certain women in the bible and wonder how they felt as they were brought forth and shamed. Like the woman caught in the act of adultery. I’ve thought about her and her story many times, as I’ve heard it in messages and read it myself. The first thing I think of is, where is the man she was caught with? I mean if she was caught, he was caught. Then I wonder how did they get caught? Did she confide in someone and they broke confidence and told someone else and it got back to the religious leaders? Something juicy like that travels fast. Or were the teachers of the law and Pharisee’s standing outside of their window in order to catch them?
Picture this, Jesus came into the temple courts and all the people gathered around him, and He sat down to teach them. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a lot of people to me. It says that the teacher’s of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery and they made her stand before the group. Oh my word! Stand before the group! Can you imagine how she felt? And again, where the heck is the man that was with her?!!
I find it interesting that it’s usually the woman who is blamed for an indiscretion like that. Like he didn’t have anything to do with it. Yeah right. What I find funny, not haha funny, but more coincidental funny, is that my sin was forced out into the open as well. It was forced out by religious “friends.” They are also considered religious leaders. And oh, they were using the excuse, left and right, that they wanted to make sure I would get into heaven so they had to “Out” me. My first response was, “How do you know that I wasn’t going to get into heaven in the first place? Are you God?” My second response was, “If you’re gonna be there, I don’t wanna be there!”
I suppose that’s why so many don’t want to become Christians or go to church because of the hypocrisy that is in the very fabric of Christianity. We tend to tear down instead of build up. Jesus isn’t recognizable within His own body. The very people that are suppose to be representatives of His kingdom, bearer’s of the good news have it only as a title. And maybe that’s the problem. It’s become just a title for some. They don’t know what it really means to represent Him. Words mean nothing without actions. When the going gets tough and love is the only recourse, there’s a hard cold opportunity to actually show the kindness that He’s shown us, our old nature comes rearing it’s ugly head and we become the very man in scripture who begged for mercy, which was granted but as soon as he had the opportunity to do the same, he beat the crap out of the other guy. (My interpretation of Matthew 18:21-35, titled “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant”)
If we love those that love us, well that’s easy! The Voice version of Luke 6:32 says, “Listen, what’s the big deal if you love people who already love you? Even scoundrels do that much!” The Message version says it this way, “If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that.” I love that Jesus puts His followers in the same category as scoundrels and sinners. We all fall short, we all do. Even those who have taken on the title Christian. It’s our walk, not our talk, that determines and reveals what side we’re really on. Out of the mouth speaks the heart. Oh, yeah that little thing. Our mouth reveals where we’re at every time.
Back to my girl, the one I can relate to so much these days. Her in particular, I connect with her story because it’s my story and in some mysterious way I feel a bond with her. My heart aches for her. She was caught and thrown before her community. I’m sure against her will. But these were men. How could she fight them? There was no physical way; for one, she wouldn’t have the strength and for two, there were multiple men that outnumbered her. Really, there was nothing she could do because those kinds of people don’t listen to pleas of mercy. But where they went wrong, yet thought they were right, was by quoting what the law of Moses commanded, for such a woman of ill repute must be stoned. What they hadn’t realized was that the very person they were speaking to was the Word Himself. How did Jesus respond to what the law said? He knew it front and back, for He was there from the beginning. And yet, all He did was kneel down and begin to write in the sand. This must of have really bothered the religious leaders. I mean, they were in fact teachers of the law and Pharisees. Their very position demanded respect. How dare He not say anything! They wanted an answer and they wanted it right now!! So they continued. My family likes to call it haranguing when someone won’t stop beating the same drum so to speak. He finally stood up and responded in a profound way. He said, “If any one of you is without sin, cast the first stone.” Woah. Takes ya back a little doesn’t it. Even I feel like my mouth is hanging open and in need of assistance shutting it. Do you think they whispered to each other, “You do it.” “No, you do it?” But when no one had the guts to throw the first stone, because no one is without sin, one by one, they left until it was just Jesus and the woman, standing in all her guilt and shame. He asked her where they had gone and had anyone condemned her. All she could muster was, “No one.” And He said, “Neither do I. Go and leave your life of sin.” What amazing love. I would think she wouldn’t want to leave His side. He rescued her from certain death. Although He may not have condemned her, she probably was never looked at the same. She was publicly shamed and humiliated. Her sin was shouted from the roof tops. But Love Himself covered her and set her free. If He didn’t condemn her then why shouldn’t we do the same to individuals like her. Love covers. It reminds me of the story of Noah and his sons when they found him drunk and naked. The youngest son actually found Noah in that state and told his brothers. But the two brothers took a garment and covered their father. That’s what love does. It covers.
I think I connect with her so much because I was caught in my sin like her. And I gotta tell ya, I have pictured myself being drug out, thrown in front of the crowd, a masked man standing behind me with a large axe. My head has been slammed down on the chopping block with my hands secured behind my back. There’s no one to defend me, my sins were found out and shouts of condemnation get louder and louder. They seem to prolong the swing of the axe to torture me. But it’s the jeers that get to me. The words sting with every shout. So many things being said are untrue but it’s mixed with some truth as well. I promise, I’m really not like the words they say. How could they say it? Don’t they know me? Don’t they know my track record and that I just had a moment of weakness? Even though Jesus does forgive me, I’m still not set free from the chains that the masses have put on me. I now have a notorious reputation for being a woman of ill repute. That’s really not me. I don’t know who that is but they can’t be talking about me. The body of believers is my people. It’s where I belong. Please, all I wanna do is get back in good graces with my people. But sadly, I don’t believe that’s gonna happen. Someone with that kind of rep will never rub shoulders with the keeper’s of the law. I will never be the same. Who will accept me now? I’ll have to go outside of the four walls of the church to find comfort and acceptance. It’s really sad because people like me, like the woman caught in the act, and many more are just crying out for acceptance, for love. Somebody just love me. Jesus does but His people unfortunately don’t. Seems very much like an oxymoron to me. Quite ridiculous indeed.
Jesus showed the example but you gotta get dirty to love like that. You have to be willing to risk your own reputation to rub shoulders with the likes of her, with the likes of me. So, what’s easier, to go on a mission’s trip half-way around the world, perform some skits and dances, tell about His love then leave? Or to face the drug dealers, users, adulterers, prostitutes and love them in all their filth right here at home? Actions speak louder than words and what I see is that what’s easier for most churches is to shove us out and not accept us. It’s because we’re bad influences and we may corrupt the good body of Christ. So we’re removed and they just go back to comfortable little worlds, loving on friends and far-away mission’s fields. There just has to be another way.