"Manners" are very useful. They help us to behave acceptably without offence to anybody. Yet sometimes they seem very artificial. There may be no offence, but little real care or communication either. They sometimes mean something quite different from what they seem to. I recall hearing once on a Parliamentary broadcast this un-Parliamentary remark (later withdrawn), "I think the honourable Member for so-and-so is a lying pig!"
Paul wrote that love "is not arrogant or rude" (1 Cor. 13.5).
The person who is jealous of others will be boastful of his own assumed superiority and arrogant towards his inferiors. This leads to rudeness in speech and conduct.
Love isn't like this. But it isn't just the veneer of good breeding, either.
Unlike many of the Pharisees, Simon was open enough to invite Jesus to a meal. This woman, of known bad reputation, came in, wet the feet of Jesus with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed his feet and anointed them with precious perfume.
Simon was polite - he said nothing. But still he thought to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is - that she is a sinner." He kept his counsels to himself, but Jesus know what he was thinking.
Jesus told him a parable about a creditor with two debtors, one owing 500 denarii (a denarius was a day's wages), and the other fifty. He cancelled the debts of both when they couldn't pay. "Now which of them," asked Jesus, "will love him more?"
Simon supposed that it would be the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.
Jesus then drew a comparison between this woman and Simon himself. Simon had been courteous - though, in his concern for his courtesy rather than care for his guest, even this had not been complete. This woman's overflowing love was the sign of her deep awareness of forgiveness.
"Love is not arrogant or rude."
But Simon has been all prim and proper. His feelings of arrogance and rudeness are very carefully kept under. His sense of dignity and propriety have kept them well hidden. Yet they are there. His sense of superiority to this woman is clear. She is the sort of woman no respectable person would have anything to do with - just to be sent away in disgrace.
But love isn't like that - and here we see the pure example of true love in Jesus himself. He doesn't condone this woman's immoral life, or lower himself to her standard. Yet he has a deep outgoing care for her - it is only because he is that sort of person that she has come in the first place. He doesn't react to her presence with revulsion, or with holy condemnation. He reacts with love and with the warmth of God's forgiveness.
How do we react to people, especially to those who may not be so naturally likeable? Are we always polite? Do we have the caring love which is able to channel the redeeming love of God to people who need it?
Simon has no time for this kind of love - he is too busy thinking about himself. And isn't this the problem of all of us too often? Only God can make us the kind of people who really reach out to others.
|PRAYER: Eternal Father, you love me, but I cannot claim exclusive rights to your love. Yet sometimes, because I think myself to be somebody, I object to some whom you include in your love and care. I haven't seen that, in other ways perhaps, I too am poor and mean. I need to marvel that even I am included. Thank you, Father. Amen.|
I saw him
there in Roma Street -
but was it him?
Ten years before
and bottled comfort.
For six months dry,
then just before
of his son's death
someone pinched his shirt -
clean and pressed for church.
He'd had a bottle and a half
by the time we saw him then -
so back to square one.
But then I saw him,
or was it him?
Not too far from a pub,
with that old look.
As I questioned myself,
the fleeting glimpse was past.
I had not spoken -
perhaps he had not seen!
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