My daughters and I have this little game we play. I ask them “How much do you love me?” And they, giggling and smiling, try to stretch their little arms as wide as they can and say “This much, daddy!” Of course, then they ask me how much I love them and I make as big a show as I can to stretch my arms as wide as I can and say “This much, baby girl!” And then we all start trying to compete and see who can stretch their arms wider! It all ends with much stretching, laughing, and smiles! It’s a fun game.
But we humans, regardless of what we might say, do measure how much someone else cares for us by their behavior. After all, love isn’t just words. Love isn’t love if it doesn’t show up in our actions, right? Love is a decision we make that is then followed through with choices, priorities, and actions. After all, love is a verb; its something we do based on a choice we’ve made.
Jesus talks about this kind of love when He speaks to a religious leader of His day who had asked Him to come to his house for dinner. While the Lord was there at dinner, a woman with a bad reputation in the town came in, during dinner, and wept tears at the feet of Jesus and then wiped the tears off His feet with her hair. The religious man saw this and thought that if Jesus knew what kind of woman this was He wouldn’t allow her to touch Him. The Lord replied with a powerful rebuke of the total misunderstanding of love in this man’s heart!
Look at this in our Gospel Lesson in Luke 7:36-50:
“Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
“He who is forgiven little, loves little.” We should not misunderstand this statement of the Lord. He is not saying that there are some who are so holy they have little to be forgiven for. No! The Lord is displaying the spiritual poverty of the delusion that “I am not as bad as (fill in the blank of your favorite excuse for your behavior and choices).” The Lord is throwing into stark relief the difference in the sinful woman’s honest confession of her many sins and the prideful lie that the religious man thinks of himself as righteous when he really is in as much need of a Savior as the woman he so easily condemns!
Today, are you really aware of just how much God loves you? Are you allowing the wisdom of the Faith to lead you to deep repentance (the changing of your mind from one of deluded self-justification to the freedom of your true identity as one who NEEDS God and His mercy every moment of every day) that allows you to deepen your love for God as the ONLY Natural response to such mercy and grace given freely to you? Instead of comparing yourself, in hopes of justifying yourself, to others who you think aren’t as good as you are, perhaps it’s time to turn an honest eye toward your own soul and take no notice of others’ sins and wrongdoing. It is only this honesty that will produce the kind of love for God that will set you free from the false “dream” of your own self-righteousness. Today is the day to “love much” and abandon the flimsy illusion of self-sufficiency by being Orthodox on Purpose!