“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NIV).
Even before she moved in, the neighbors spread the rumor about what kind of woman was building the house. She would likely be out at night and sleep in the day. Sadly, she didn’t find much grace in that neighborhood, though many of the neighbors wanted to extend it.
The neighborhood homeowners association pounced on her right away. She pleaded for help from everyone by posting her case for all to see. Many read it but, afraid to disturb the peace, didn’t stand up to help her. She was gone in only a few months. The unnamed woman in that neighborhood needed God’s grace, just as I do. But I wonder, Would I stand with her if she were in my neighborhood?
In Samford’s Certificate in Women’s Leadership, Dr. Noel Forlini Burt focuses on the verses in Luke 7:36–50, where the story juxtaposes two very different people: Simon, a teacher of the law, and the unnamed woman, a sinner in need of God’s grace. In reality, both needed God’s grace, just as we do. Surprisingly, it is the unnamed woman who humbled herself and received God’s grace instead of Simon, the teacher of the law.
Sadly, sometimes we may say we know Christ
yet don’t extend grace to others.
Have you ever been around someone who loves little? It’s sad to see. The passage in Luke 7 indicates that loving little is a result of having been forgiven of little.
You can be forgiven by the grace of God through salvation in Jesus. Grace is something you can’t earn. It is a gift from a God who chooses to bless you. But earning is what many want to do. Being indebted to others is not what one desires.
In the Bible story, the law teacher, Simon, knew all about love but didn’t really know the heart of God, who is love (1 John 4:8). He may have felt that he earned his place in God’s kingdom by knowing and teaching the law. He was seen as an expert, and he may not have felt that he had done much for which he needed grace.
Strangely, Simon invited Jesus to his home, but he didn’t treat Jesus like a guest.
- He didn’t anoint Jesus’ head with oil.
- He didn’t wash Jesus’ feet or give Him water to do so.
- Simon didn’t greet Jesus with a kiss—as was proper in that culture.
Yet Simon did judge the unnamed woman who came into his house, saying to himself, She’s a sinner. He may have been embarrassed that she came to his home uninvited. As a teacher of the law, he may have considered himself too good to show love to this woman.
Simon knew about love, but did he know love? It seems he loved little, and so do many of us. Yet grace is still available to us as it was to Simon.
The woman mentioned earlier who built a house in the neighborhood needed love. She asked the neighbors to show her mercy and stand with her, but they did not. They may have felt that standing with her would cause problems for them in the neighborhood, but for whatever reason, they did not choose to welcome her as a neighbor should.
Showing grace is sometimes risky and may be costly.
But you want to receive grace, so why not give it?
Contrary to Simon, the unnamed woman kissed the feet of Jesus. In her culture, the feet were the least respectable part of the body, but as one who needed much grace, perhaps she felt most comfortable there.
The story doesn’t say much about the woman, but her actions show that she wants to show love to Jesus.
- She found out that Jesus was at the Pharisee’s house.
- She went to the house, though uninvited, with an alabaster jar of fragrant oil.
- She stood behind Him and wept as she washed, kissed, and dried His feet.
Jesus saw her and told her that her sins were forgiven and asked her to go in peace. Even though she had many sins, that day, she found forgiveness, acceptance, and peace.
How sad for that other woman in her new neighborhood. She built the house, chose all the furnishings, and dreamed to have some peace. Condemned already, she asked for grace, but she didn’t receive it. I wonder if I would have given her grace. I hope so.
When you know that you are loved and wanted, your outlook changes. Having received forgiveness for many things, you realize it’s important to give grace and mercy to others. You have an opportunity to point others to Christ as you serve them and stand by them in their times of excitement and in their times of sadness.
When you know you’ve been loved much,
you aren’t stingy in showing grace to others.
As 1 John 4:19 indicates, you experience Jesus’ love, and you love your neighbor as a result. When you fully embrace God’s gift of grace, you are able to show grace to others. You will want your neighbor to experience God’s grace as well.
How are you showing God’s grace to your neighbors?
You can be a person who extends God’s grace to your neighbors. Let’s be intentional together and stand with our neighbors who need grace. Join me in the Know Your Neighbor Christian Women’s Leadership Challenge.
Claudia Johnson is getting to know her neighbors near Birmingham, Alabama. She lives in a diverse neighborhood and describes it as a little slice of heaven.