Love is graceful.
One of the most significant elements of salvation is the completely undeserving state of its recipients. As if Christ crucified were not example enough of true love, consider comparing his perfection with the objects of his unfathomable sacrifice! We were absolutely deserving of our placement on death row because of our undeniable sin. Not only was our cell door opened and our debt forgiven, but the reality of that analogy is an innocent man with flesh and blood suffering and dying a brutal death and enduring the torment of God’s wrath on our behalf. That is love. That is grace.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
This grace, this undeserved love, speaks beautifully to the nature of Christ’s sacrifice. Nothing we could ever do would entitle us to the benefit of Christ’s perfect act of love, but in no way did that deter God from sending his one and only Son to save us. He was motivated by pure and perfect love with no possibility of reciprocation. Imagine the benefit of bringing that grace into the relationships we have! What would our relationships look like if we each sacrificially loved those who were entirely undeserving and had no expectation of reciprocation? It may sound impossible, but through Christ we do have the capacity for this type of true love because God planted it in our hearts when he knit us together.
I often think back to those things my husband did to show his love for me before we were married. I am almost embarrassed at some of his outlandish gestures because of how completely undeserving I was of his affections. Recalling some of the things I have said and put my husband through, my heart breaks that I ever caused him the hurt that I did. Yet he forgave me and loves me still. There is an inextricable relationship between love and forgiveness. It was those times when I knew I deserved it the least that I was the most overwhelmed by the strength of his love. What a great reflection of God’s grace and love! How wonderful it is to be forgiven our imperfections and loved deeply.
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Whose gesture of love do you think was more outlandish, the woman whose tears wet Jesus feet, and who wiped them with her hair and poured perfume on them or Jesus, who set aside his divine nature, lived a perfect life, and suffered crucifixion on her behalf? Jesus deserves every bit of love we have to give, and he commands us to love and forgive one another.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Did God love and forgive us because we deserved it or because it was his turn to show love? Did he love and forgive us because we understood the severity of the pain we had caused him? Did he love and forgive us because of our adequate apology? No, and He instructs us to forgive one another the way He forgave us. Is it possible to love without forgiving those you are trying to love? Is the debt owed to you greater than the debt you've been forgiven?
When we consider how to love, how to mirror His sacrifice despite our inability to do so perfectly, we consider how we were loved, with grace, forgiveness, and outlandish gestures.