A Message of Hope For Bad People

Why Jesus is My Hero #37 of 52

The heart of the Christian message is the message of forgiveness. There are plenty of religions and philosophies of life out there for good people – people who think they’re good might get on well with Buddhism or Islam. Say your prayers, do your meditations, try to be nice to people and generally feel a bit better about yourself when you see other people royally stuffing up their lives – “at least I’m not that bad”. Even vegetarianism or a strict diet can be a good opportunity to look down our noses at other people who don’t have as much will power as us. There are plenty of religions out there for good people.

But what if you’re not a good person? What if you’re a failure, or a loser? What if you’ve stuffed up and you know you’ve stuffed up? What if you’re the kind of person that would never fit in in a club full of good people? The kind of person that people would stare at in disbelief if you dared to show your face in a prayer meeting?

Well that’s exactly the kind of person that Jesus came for. Christianity is a message of forgiveness for bad people – it’s good news for rotten sinners who know they could never be good enough to please God by their own efforts. Jesus is a saviour for bad people who are honest enough to admit they’re bad.

We meet just such a woman in Luke 7:36-50. She’s a notorious “sinner” by reputation – everybody knows what kind of woman she is, and it’s clear to all that she doesn’t stand a chance in the religious rankings. And yet when she has an encounter with Jesus, she discovers that he came to forgive people exactly like her. The joy of being forgiven a debt that she could never possibly hope to pay back overflows from her in an embarrassingly lavish expression of love towards Jesus:

“when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.”

Jesus explains her behaviour like this: “her sins, which are many, have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little”. It’s not that her love earnt her forgiveness – that much is clear from the rest of the passage. Rather, it is evident how much she has been forgiven – and how much she knows she’s been forgiven – from just how thankful towards Jesus she is. By contrast, Simon the Pharisee, who clearly considers himself to be in a much better place before God, shows very little affection towards Jesus, being barely aware of how much he needs to be forgiven.

Christianity is a message of forgiveness for bad people. The life of a Christian is all about thankfulness for what Jesus has done for us, about rejoicing in what he’s done, and looking forward to a future with the One who’s saved us. Life goes so much better when we remember that – when we keep reminding ourselves of what we deserve, and how merciful and gracious God has been to us. Thankfulness, thankfulness, thankfulness – more and more I’m beginning to see that thankfulness is the key to our contentment. May we never forget how much we’ve been forgiven.