Agape Love: An Act Of Worship
By Ian Taylor
In her own simple way she was showing her love and devotion to the One who had forgiven her sins.
In The Pharisee’s House
Can you imagine the atmosphere in the room when that woman, “who had lived a sinful life in that town,” entered the house of Simon the Pharisee, unannounced and uninvited? (Lk. 7:36-50 NIV). Simon had invited a few of his close friends to enjoy a meal and discuss religious matters with this man Jesus, who, in spite of His lack of formal education at the school of the Pharisees, had some very interesting thoughts about God and the practice of the Jewish Law.
Jesus was popular with the crowds at that time. Perhaps having Him come for dinner and a private chat would boost Simon’s own standing with his peers. Perhaps they could ply Him with some difficult questions. And, even if He didn’t come up to their standards of expertise and understanding of the deeper things of the Law and God, it would be an amusing break in the normal routine of their lives.
The table was set and the couches were around the table. Each of the guests were reclined on their sides with their heads close to the table and their legs extended out behind them, as was the custom of that time.
“It’s good that Jesus is with us,” Simon thought. “He probably realizes that we are an elite group and He is probably impressed with our learning and religious knowledge. He may even want to become one of us.”
Tears And Perfume
Everything seemed to be going so well until that woman appeared! How did she even know that Jesus was visiting? Didn’t she have any shame? She just walked in as though it was a public house – without a thought for the scruples or sensitivities of such an august group of religious men.
There was no doubt about it – she had everyone’s attention! All eyes were fixed on her as she approached Jesus. But she seemed to be totally unaware of anyone else but Jesus. She walked quickly toward Him, knelt at His feet, and began to weep.
Her quiet sobbing was all that could be heard in that hushed atmosphere. Tears ran down her cheeks and onto the feet of Jesus. Her long, wavy, black hair fell over her shoulders and she began to kiss His feet and gently wipe away the tears with her hair. She then produced an alabaster jar of perfume and poured it over his feet.
It’s possible that she had heard what Jesus had said earlier: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-29).
Now she was at the Lord’s feet with tears of repentance, gratitude, and joy. In her own simple way she was showing her love and devotion to the One who had forgiven her sins. She was in “the sanctuary” with no thought or awareness of the criticism, consternation and turmoil that her presence had caused those religious, self-righteous Pharisees.
Expressing Agape Love
The woman didn’t have any false notions about herself. She knew she was an outcast, a notorious sinner who was known by many men in the town. But Jesus was so different! He had offered her forgiveness from all the dirt that had become part of her life. His love could be trusted. It wasn’t the erotic, self-serving sort of love that other men had expressed to her, but a genuine love that could be trusted. He didn’t want to use her as other men had used her, and she felt safe in His presence.
She was overwhelmed with pure love for Him, and it didn’t matter what others thought of her. She just wanted to express her pure “agape” love, a love that sought nothing in return, in the most practical way possible. The costly perfume which she had used in her old profession, was now poured out on His feet. He deserved the very best she had to offer.
Simon, seeing all that was happening before his very eyes, was scandalized: “If this man Jesus was really a prophet, He would know what sort of woman was putting on this show at His feet. Doesn’t He realize that this woman is a prostitute? Doesn’t He even realize that what He is allowing this woman to do goes against all my religious sensibilities and could hurt my social standing in the community?”
Who Loves More?
Jesus, knowing what Simon was thinking answered him saying, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” He then went on to tell the parable of the two debtors (Lk. 7:40-50). One owed much more than the other, but both were freely forgiven their debt. Who would love more? Simon had to confess, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
Jesus then went on to tell Simon what had been happening since He arrived in Simon’s home. Simon thought he was better than others, but failed to show even the common courtesies to Jesus when He came into the house. However, this woman who had much to be forgiven had not stopped worshiping and giving thanks to Him. She had eyes only for Him as she poured out her thanksgiving and love to Jesus the only way she knew.
Simon, who should have been the example as the religious, knowledgeable one, had completely missed one of history’s greatest moments of pure worship. Simon’s love for God was self-centered, self-satisfying and egotistical, and it fell under the category of “eros” love. By contrast, the woman’s love was selfless as she was only occupied in pleasing and bringing satisfaction to Jesus, the object of her love.
“Eros is desire in search of satisfaction. Eros seeks its object in order to satisfy its own hunger. Eros seeks its object for the worth and value it has for its own self-fulfillment ...” On the other hand, “Agape love seeks not its own (1 Cor. 13:5) ... While eros is motivated by what its object can do for it, agape is motivated by what it can do for its
We Need To Change
What about you and me? Are we so taken up with ourselves and our knowledge of God’s Word and the formalities of our form of worship that we actually miss the point? Do we have an attitude that says we are better than others because the Lord Jesus is with us? We should rather have an attitude of humbly falling at His feet to worship and praise Him for who He is.
Being religious can be very self-satisfying in the sense that we begin to think we are just a little better than others and that God must be glad that He has us serving Him. How can we make sure that we are not acting just like Simon? Let me suggest four ways.
First, like the woman who came to Jesus, we need to have a right estimation of ourselves. We are no better than anyone else; we are sinners saved by grace. Paul had a right estimation of himself. Right up to the end of his life he could say that among sinners, “I am the worst” (1 Tim. 1:15). The religious things that he had formerly esteemed as a Pharisee, and which had boosted his self-righteous ego, were considered to be “rubbish” after he came to know the Lord Jesus (Phil 3:8).
Second, we need to review our lives honestly to see what our weaknesses and failings might be. We need to do what is necessary to confess and correct these things (1 Jn. 1:8-9). What do we need to do to get our life back on the right track? How can we find God’s will for our life and the way to live in order to please Him? (Rom. 12:1-2).
Third, we need to ask ourselves, “What does the Lord Jesus really mean to me?" Is our love for Him still vital and fresh, or are we just in a rut? Do we spend quality time with Him each day? Do we have a sense of walking with Him on a moment-by-moment basis? (Gal. 5:16).
Fourth, we need to determine why we go to church? Is it for the social contact? Is it because it makes us feel good? Or do we go because Jesus is there and we want to be with Him, to honor and worship Him collectively with other members of His body, to be ministered to by Him?
As we set our hearts and minds on Christ, our lives will be transformed more and more into His image and we will develop a genuine “agape” love for Him – a love which will deepen day by day. (Col. 3:1-4) CL
(From the archives of Confident Living Magazine)