Most of us don’t want to admit it, but I’ll bet you can remember a time you felt embarrassed or ashamed, right? Maybe it was something as innocent as getting caught sleeping on the job or in class. Or that time you finally worked up the nerve to ask someone out on a date and they smiled sweetly and said, “No thank you.” Can you feel your face turning red just thinking about it? Maybe it was something much more serious than that … some hidden fear or failing that is exposed.
“Human beings are wired for survival,” says the Episcopal Priest and psychotherapist Ian Morgan Cron. “As little kids we instinctually place a mask called personality over parts of our authentic self to protect us from harm and make our way in the world. Made up of innate qualities, coping strategies, conditioned reflexes and defense mechanisms, among lots of other things, our personality helps us know and do what we sense is required to please our parents, to fit in and relate well to our friends, to satisfy the expectations of our culture and to get our basic needs met. … Ironically, the term personality is derived from the Greek word for mask ( persona), reflecting our tendency to confuse the masks we wear with our true selves, even long after the threats of early childhood have passed.”
Why do we develop these personalities? Part of the reason is that we are afraid that if people knew our true selves, they wouldn’t like us very much. And that’s reinforced because we all know that we have dark spots on our soul, dark moments in our past, dark thoughts in our hearts. So, we spend an enormous amount of psychic energy trying to keep any of that darkness from being exposed.
With that in mind, go back and reread Luke 7:37-38:
“And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.”Luke 7:37-38 New Revised Standard Version
Can you picture this scene in your mind? Click on this picture to watch a video version of this story.
Now, take a few minutes to reflect on these questions:
- What made this woman come to Jesus? What made her want to come? What made her able to come?
- How did Jesus know “her sins were many”? (See Hebrews 4:13)
The Bible doesn’t tell us what this woman’s “many sins” were. They are often assumed to be sexual sins. But maybe she had neglected her children. Maybe she was mean to her mother-in-law. Maybe she gossiped about the next door neighbors. Maybe she put her finger on the scale when she sold her grain in the market. Maybe she just tuned out the Rabbi during his teaching at the Synagogue because she just didn’t care. Maybe she did all those things. Whatever it was, Jesus knew the moment she walked into the room. Maybe before.
God is able to see behind our masks, all the way into our hearts. And wonder of wonders, God loves us anyway. The Apostle Paul put it like this: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
One final question (okay, maybe two) and for this you might want to remember the look on the woman’s face in the video clip, when Jesus says to her, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:48, 50).
- What can you imagine this woman did after she left that dinner with Jesus?
- What will you do this week, knowing that Jesus accepts you, forgives you, loves you, just as you are?