“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47
The late Welsh minister Martin Lloyd-Jones once wrote, “In order to measure the love of God you have first to go down before you can go up. You do not start on the level and go up. We have to be brought up from a dungeon, from a horrible pit; and unless you know something of the measure of that depth you will only be measuring half the love of God.”
This truth is perhaps most clearly illustrated in Luke 7 when Jesus is dining at Simon’s house and a woman, known to be a prostitute, arrives with an alabaster vial of perfume. Weeping at Christ’s feet, she wet His feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, and then anointed them with the expensive perfume. Simon was outraged at her inappropriate behavior! Jesus corrected him, explaining that her extravagant worship came from a heart of gratitude for the great forgiveness she received from Christ.
When it comes to God’s grace, many people think of forgiveness in terms of a number line. We imagine that we start at zero, and after Christ saves us we move to the right into the positive portion of the line. The truth is, however, we do not start at zero. All of us start to the far left of zero in the negative portion of the line. There is not one of us who are more deserving of God’s grace than another. This is what the Pharisees could never understand. How could Jesus love prostitutes and tax collectors? The truth is that grace is not linear. There is no moving closer to zero, working our way to the positive side. We all sit helpless at negative infinity. The question is, how many of us will ever realize the depths from which we have been saved?
Alexander III was Tsar of Russia from 1881-1894. His rule was marked by oppression, and in particular by persecution of Jews. His wife, Maria Fedorovna, however, was known for her kindness. On one occasion her husband signed an order sending a prisoner to life in exile. It simply read, “Pardon impossible, to be sent to Siberia.” Maria changed that prisoner’s life by moving the comma in her husband’s order. She altered it to, “Pardon, impossible to be sent to Siberia.”
In Christ, God has changed the comma of death that stood against us. When our sin doomed us to eternity separated from Him…when we deserved the punishment of hell, God’s pen of grace, inked with the blood of Christ, moved the comma. From, “Pardon impossible, send to hell,” comes the good news of salvation: “Pardon, impossible to send to hell.”
Dear Lord, help me not to forget how much I need you and your grace. I am absolutely nothing without you. Please help me to remember how desperately I need you and your salvation. In Jesus' name, amen.