A Sinful Woman Forgiven

Luke 7:36–50 (ESV)

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

For those who strongly dislike Calvin

People tend to either vilify Calvin or hold him up as the standard by which all of Christian thought must be measured. For either, I found this helpful. A Respost by Justin Taylor.

Calvin on the Good News in Christ

From John Calvin’s preface to Pierre-Robert Olivétan’s 1535 translation of the Bible.

“To all those who love Christ and his gospel,” Calvin writes:

Without the gospel

everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel

we are not Christians;

without the gospel

all riches is poverty,

all wisdom, folly before God;

strength is weakness, and

all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made

children of God,

brothers of Jesus Christ,

fellow townsmen with the saints,

citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,

heirs of God with Jesus Christ,

by whom

the poor are made rich,

the weak strong,

the fools wise,

the sinners justified,

the desolate comforted,

the doubting sure, and

slaves free.

The gospel is the Word of life.

In Institutes 2.16.19 he explains that “We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else.”

If we seek salvation

we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him.”

If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit,

they will be found in his anointing.

If we seek strength,

it lies in his dominion;

if purity,

in his conception;

if gentleness,

it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain.

If we seek redemption,

it lies in his passion;

if acquittal,

in his condemnation;

if remission of the curse,

in his cross;

if satisfaction,

in his sacrifice;

if purification,

in his blood;

if reconciliation,

in his descent into hell;

if mortification of the flesh,

in his tomb;

in newness of life,

in his resurrection;

if immortality,

in the same;

if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom,

in his entrance into heaven;

if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings,

in his Kingdom;

if untroubled expectation of judgment,

in the power given to him to judge.

In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain and from no other.

A followup post to "All Things Are Political."

Sometimes others express my opinions better than I do. This repost from the Gospel Coalition presents a cautionary tale for Protestant Christians:


Freedom-Fighting Catholics

“It all comes down to catechesis.” Monsignor Irvine was known for memorable quips. A little leprechaun of a man, he was full of good-natured humor and wit (it was he who also told me, “Chris, if you go into the ministry, be sure to take God seriously and not yourself”). You can imagine, therefore, how my ears perked up when I recently spoke with Francis Cardinal George and heard him say nearly the same thing. “It’s all about catechesis.”

I don’t usually have dinner with the Cardinal (just for the record), but on this occasion I happened to be sitting beside him for an hour discussing the interface of Catholic theology and current affairs. The context of his comment was the Department of Health and Human Services mandate. With an admirable measure of candor, the Cardinal not only articulated his concern for the threat to our nation’s religious freedom, he also lamented the paucity of Christian thinking on the issue. However, far from a negative bemoaning of the problem, he was strikingly enthusiastic about the current “discipleship opportunity.”

Fortnight for Freedom 

Starting June 21, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) launched a Fortnight for Freedom, intended to expose the government’s violations of religious liberty. In an interview with CNN, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, explained that leading up to July 4, there will be prayer vigils, religious rallies, and homilies at Mass to build awareness among the faithful. In his words, it is about “prayer, education, and action.”

It is interesting to observe this movement through the lens of “catechesis.” Once again, quoting Cardinal Wuerl who spoke on Sunday before a rally at George Washington University, “We’re here to educate about freedom. We started this campaign to say religious liberty is eroding.” To understand precisely what part of liberty the Cardinal understands to be eroding, you’ll want to read the recent USCCB statement titled “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty.” Here is one of several places in the document where the theme of catechesis emerges:

Catechesis on religious liberty is not the work of priests alone. The Catholic Church in America is blessed with an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom.

One such writer is Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, whose new ebook,True Freedom: On Protecting Human Dignity and Religious Liberty (Image Books), was released June 19. Over and against the government’s secular creed, which supports abortion providers with tax dollars, imposes the HHS mandates, and threatens to redefine marriage, the Cardinal envisions a “culture of life” in which men and women, made in God’s image, are free to live out their faith. Quoting Pope Leo XIII, Cardinal Dolan begins: “True freedom . . . is that freedom which most truly safeguards the dignity of the human person. It is stronger than any violence or injustice. Such is the freedom which has always been desired by the Church, and which she holds most dear.” The Bishops’ message might be unpopular, but it is eminently clear.

The Challenge of Communication

As every pastor knows, catechesis involves two distinct challenges: content and delivery. You labor to craft a message from God, and when your exegesis is done, you’re only half-finished. Along this line, the Catholic Bishops are now facing a communication challenge. According to sociologist William D’Antonio and his team at Catholic University, whose recent study Catholics in America: Persistence and Change in the Catholic Landscape wasfeatured in USA Today, these challenges include the following:

  • 86 percent of Catholics say “you can disagree with aspects of church teachings and still remain loyal to the church.” Only about 30 percent support the “teaching authority claimed by the Vatican.”
  • 40 percent say you can be a good Catholic without believing that in Mass, the bread and wine really become the body and blood of Christ—a core doctrine of Catholicism.
  • When asked why they don’t go to Mass more often, 40 percent say they are simply not very religious.
  • 88 percent say “how a person lives is more important than whether he or she is Catholic.”

While the antichristian bias of government and media is a formidable challenge to U.S. Catholic Bishops, the more immediate predicament may actually be the lukewarm theology of men and women who identify themselves as Catholic. To be sure, there is no room for triumphalism here. We Protestants see enough nominal faith in our own ranks. But it may raise a point worth considering.

The enterprise of catechesis can only succeed when one’s public identity is manifestly defined and critiqued by the objective truth of divine revelation. Any bifurcation between public and private life pulls the carpet out from beneath the whole project. Evangelism, discipleship, and the fulfillment of Christian vocation are all predicated on this conviction; otherwise, there is a smattering of religious opinions and nothing more.

Men and women will only listen to their pastors and take action when they believe that they are hearing the voice of God. How do churches arrive at this place? This, too, underscores the point of my favorite Irish Monsignor: “It all comes down to catechesis.”

Chris Castaldo serves as director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. He is the author of Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic and a main contributor to Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Anglicanism. He blogs atwww.chriscastaldo.com.