So says the Savior in next Sunday’s gospel (Luke 7:36-50).
Simon, of course, was sure he grasped what was shameful. A notorious sinner was perpetrating a home invasion on his property. There she was, a known sinner, wailing and carrying on right in the midst of his dinner party! How shameful of her. And, come to think of it, how even more shameful of this rabbi from Nazareth who, if he were a prophet (which he clearly must not be!), should never have let someone like this near him.
But lost to his unloving heart was that the shame was really his!
Consider his shameful actions! He is Jesus’ host, yet he provides no common courtesies! There’s no foot washing, no greeting kiss, no anointing with oil. And the woman he considers shameful? With her tears and hair, with her kisses, with her perfumed-anointing, she provides lavish substitutions for his shameful neglect.
But what was really shameful was the heart difference between the two. You see, the woman grasped painfully and yet joyfully three things Simon did not. She grasped the shame of a debt she could not pay to God. She grasped a joyful debt of love owed to a Savior who had come to take her shame and leave her with nothing but forgiveness. Finally, she grasped – with glorious assurance from Jesus’ own lips! – that she was at peace with her God!
But Simon’s heart didn’t see his shameful debt. So his heart loved little (a bit of gracious hyperbole on Jesus’ part?). Worst of all, his heart heard no assurances of peace from Jesus’ lips. A truly shameful situation!
What had gone wrong? Had he been fooled by the outward difference between himself and her? Yes, his life had not been a disgraceful outward display of sin. Would anyone in their town have found any commonalities between that woman and Simon?
But, Jesus did. This, Jesus points out, was their undeniable commonality. They both share the shame of a debt before God that they could not pay.
One in that house knew it full well and found reason to love Jesus lavishly, astounded by peace she found nowhere else. One refused to see it, and therefore found little reason to love him, and, worst of all, knew nothing of the peace that God himself – no mere prophet – had come to bring to debtors like him.
“Rich, I have something to tell you!”
“Tell me, dear Savior.”
“I would like to prevent you from falling into the greatest shame there is! My dear child, never let yourself be fooled by outward appearances. Yes, my grace in your life may have prevented your sinful nature from so disgracing yourself that you couldn’t lift your head in polite society. But do not mistake the fruit of my work in your life as if that were the reason for my love for you. (And, may I add, when your love for me is lagging, that is a powerful warning that this shameful way of thinking is beginning to take hold of you!)
“It is right then, my dear child, that it is absolutely necessary to remember that beating within you is a heart that is forever proving that it owes me, your Creator, a debt that you cannot pay. You can try to soothe yourself by taking comfort in a comparatively shameless life, but then you will miss more and more the beauty of my unmerited grace for you. In fact, you are risking making your shame eternal.
“Instead, my dear child, refuse to take comfort in any fool’s game of outward comparisons. Simply confess each day that you owe a debt you cannot pay. And then, find anew each day the boundless reason that you do love me: it is my boundless forgiving love for you. Only then, will your heart be able to hear what I really long to tell you.
“You do know, don’t you, what I most want to tell you, Rich?”
“Tell me, dear Savior.”
“Rich, depart in peace!”