An Amish boy and his father go into a shopping mall, where they see a sight they've never seen before: a set of shiny silver doors that open and close when people push a button. People are going and coming through these doors.
"What is this, Father?" asks the boy.
"I don't know, son, "replies the father. "Let's watch."
As they watch, a shriveled old woman painfully steers her wheelchair up to the set of silver doors and pushes the button. The doors open. The old woman slowly wheels herself into the tiny room beyond. The shiny doors close, and flashing lights go off above them. When they open, a beautiful young woman walks out!
The father turns to his son and says, "Go get your mother."
Corny, I know; but I love that old joke. Don't you wish you had a set of those shiny silver doors in your church? You could shove people through them, and they would come out perfect—no problems, no complaints, no irritating opinions that conflict with yours. Wouldn't that be just great? So far, I haven't found any church that has a set of those doors.
But here's the thing: we act like we do. We act like we've all been through them and come out shiny.
Here's how it happens:
I was sitting in Vacation Bible School opening assembly one morning when a woman "shared her testimony" with the children. She said, "I was six years old when I became a Christian. It was on a Sunday. The pastor had talked about sin that day. When I went home, I asked my mama, 'What is sin?' and she said, 'Honey, sin is all the bad things we do. The bad things we do build a wall between us and God. But God loves us so much, he sent Jesus to die on the cross and tear down that wall. When we ask Jesus to live in our hearts, he takes away our sin.'"
Sounds familiar, yes? Is it right? Not quite. And that's dangerous.
See, I'm watching my nine-year-old son, who has just become a Christian the day before in his VBS class. His teacher asked if anybody would like to ask Jesus into their heart, and he raised his hand. Now, I know what he is thinking: Sin is all the bad things I do. And when I asked Jesus to live in my heart, he took away my sin. But....I still do bad things. Like I pinched my little brother this morning on the way to VBS, and I lied about it. So, either it didn't work, and Jesus doesn't live in my heart. Or, God can't love me, because I still do bad things.
God can't love me, because I do bad things. You get a kid—let's say a little girl—thinking like that when she's six or seven, and by the time she's sixteen or seventeen, she's learned to hide all the bad things. By the time she's twenty-six or twenty-seven, she's volunteering for everything in an effort to do enough good things to balance the bad things. By the time she's thirty-six or thirty-seven, she's exhausted from doing all those good things, because you can never do enough good things to be good enough. So you become a forty-six or forty-seven year old woman who sits in the pew and wonders, "Does God really love me?"
I was thinking about this as I prepared for Wednesday Bible study this week because our story is about the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. It's quite a scandalous story. Jesus is in the home of a religious leader named Simon. They are sitting down to a meal when the woman enters and comes to the feet of Jesus. This woman had apparently done a lot of bad things and done them very publicly.
Simon said to himself, "If this man were really from God,
he would know what kind of woman this is, falling all over him."
- Luke 7:39
That's what we're all afraid of, isn't it? That someone will find out what kind of person we are—that God will find out—and they will have nothing to do with us. And here is where we, the church, fail the gospel. We have assumed that God only loves shiny, fixed people who behave perfectly. That is not what the gospel says. It says quite plainly that God proved his love for us in this way: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
I will never be good enough. Yet God loves me.
I do bad things. Yet God loves me.
If you knew what kind of person I am, all the stuff up in this heart and head, all the things I've done or wanted to do, you would be appalled. Yet God loves me.
She has been forgiven much, much disobedience. So she has been very, very grateful.
The person who has been forgiven little shows very little gratitude.
Oh, if we could take all the effort we expend being good enough and put it toward being grateful enough!
Click here to listen to the story of the woman who was forgiven much
and download the Bible study.
Who will you tell this story to?