Are there degrees in which we can love Jesus? Do some people love Him more than others? In our politically correct culture—even within the Church—we shy away from making such distinctions. We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and imply that there are some people who just seem to have a much deeper love for God than others.
Yet it is a distinction that Christ made.
When visiting with Simon the leper, who was also a Pharisee, one day in his home, the crowd all around Jesus suddenly stopped. Their gaze was firmly implanted on a young woman who was weeping inconsolably. She was at Jesus’ feet, washing them with a mixture of tears and fragrant oil. On two occasions Luke tells us she was a “sinner,” as if this made her different than anyone else. But this was a deliberate designation on his part.
Simon, the great host, was scandalized by this lady’s maneuver. There is a plethora of reasons as to why this was so, but, suffice it to say, he was disturbed that someone was stealing his thunder and embarrassed by the fact that she was doing to Jesus that which he, himself, should have been doing. And so, in his heart, he tried to justify his own lack of love by trying to undermine Christ’s divinity.
And so Jesus, reading his heart, tells an amazingly subtle story, helping Simon see the big picture. “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors,” Jesus said to Simon, “One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:41-42).
Simon didn’t have to think long about it. He quickly blurted out, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” No doubt, Simon immediately knew he had just indicted himself. Notice that Jesus, at least in Luke’s account, does not say who had been forgiven more—whether it was the woman or Simon. But, at the very least, the woman felt she had been forgiven much. And Simon, for his part, should have felt the same indebtedness.
And this should be true of all of us. The reality is, the reason many—if not most—of us live our lives from day to day with little direction, little purpose, very little fervor for God and what He is all about, is because we probably do not realize just how much we been forgiven. We love little because we think we have been forgiven little. We love little because we do not really label ourselves a “sinner” like Luke was quick to label this woman.
And I think this is the key: we need to have a healthy balance between our understanding of our sinfulness and our understanding of how much we have been forgiven. It is only when this is achieved that we can “love much.” And then we can all come weeping at the feet of Jesus, willing to give up all for Him.