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Repentance = A Soft Heart
by Pr. Jeff Morlock
“Don’t judge me,” I often hear people say. It is one of our greatest fears, right? And one that came true every day for this woman who ministered to Jesus. She can afford costly perfume because she’s a prostitute, something absolutely no one aspires to. We’re not told why this is her profession, but often, it was the only way women in certain circumstances could support themselves in that day. Everybody knows her and she sees their sneers, the way they whisper behind her back. But she has no hope of ever being different in their eyes. Her history precludes that, and it doesn’t look like any other careers will become available to her anytime soon. She’s stuck. That’s the first thing.
Second, this passage upends what we typically think repentance looks like. We like moralistic repentance, the kind we initiate by working up some remorse and developing a game plan for how we are going to change. Then we hope that we will experience God’s love and forgiveness anew. Instead, Luke paints a picture of a woman bound by an inescapable job… with an inescapable identity. She cannot change. But then she hears a word from outside. She hears about one who will love her completely and unconditionally. Even her. Her heart is broken open. And it‘s then that she can repent. Because forgiveness has come first.
What does repentance mean then? Surely it must mean that she is no longer plying the trade. She’s left town and started over, right? Well, if that’s how it went, there’s no hint of it here. Luke’s aim is to show us that real repentance is about contrition and a soft heart that has been broken open by grace. This woman shows us by her actions, and Jesus shows us by his approval, that to repent is simply to despair of yourself and fall at the feet of Jesus, laying all that you are and all that you have at his feet.
The third thing about this passage is that it is for you... and me. Because we are both Simon and the woman. I am the self-righteous, church-going sneerer. But there is also something about me (maybe several somethings) that I can’t seem to be able to change - things that people might judge me for. Like this woman, I may wonder at times whether anyone who knew the truth about me could ever really love me. May this true story break open our stony hearts today, and bring us to our knees in wonder and repentance at our Lord's feet.
Breath Prayer - Take 2-3 minutes today to pray a simple breath prayer. Get somewhere quiet and relaxing. Breathe in deeply, and then breathe out fully. As you breathe in, ask God to fill you with His presence, grace, love, peace, etc. Consider using the list of spiritual fruit in Galatians 5:22-23. As you breathe out, offer to God the things you need Him to take from you – sin, doubt, shame, anxiety, fear, etc. Pray this way for just a few minutes, trusting God to work, and then begin reading today’s Scripture.