Today’s reading is Luke 7:36-50 (ESV):
A Sinful Woman Forgiven
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.”
My Facebook feed is practically apoplectic with disgust and bewilderment at the state of the Republican primaries. To the chagrin of many, including myself, the incendiary Donald Trump has won New Hampshire, South Carolina, and now Nevada.
Yet even as I am frustrated, I understand why so many Republicans are drawn to a candidate who promises a return to the economic greatness of yesteryear while flagrantly disavowing the politically correct rhetoric liberal Democrats demand. Trump is an easy target for ridicule, yet all the ire directed at him has not yet hampered his success. This is where I think today’s reading is especially relevant.
The Pharisee was quick to point out the sins of the woman without acknowledging his own. He questioned whether Jesus could still be clean after being touched by this sinful woman. Yet the Pharisee neglects to appreciate his own sinfulness; he does not seek forgiveness from Christ, so forgiveness is not granted to him.
It would be easy to point out here that our need for forgiveness is a required teaching of the Christian faith; that a Christian claiming they do not ask for forgiveness is like a vegan eating meat every day. But really, what I want to draw out is our tendency in politics to immediately look at the other party to attack its character, point out its flaws, and to completely ignore the ways our own party has failed. We sometimes see an even pharisaical ideological purity that demands we remove all association from those with beliefs we find distasteful. We increasingly isolate ourselves in social media echo chambers, which drives further polarization as we become unfamiliar with those who hold other positions.
To bridge the polarized divide in American politics, both sides need to get out of the role of Pharisee and dwell for a while in the role of the woman. It’s easy to point fingers at the other side and to condemn them as wrong, dangerous, and un-American. But if we pause for a moment, we may see the flaws within our own parties and our own selves.
Democrats proclaim their president to be “non-partisan” while he rammed a healthcare bill through Congress without a single Republican vote. Republicans condemn Obama’s spending for increasing our federal deficit without acknowledging the role two Bush wars played in ballooning the federal debt. Both sides have their share of media spin and hypocrisy.
I try to be a good citizen, a good friend, and a conversation partner, but sometimes I let my politically-driven anger get the best of me. Every time I feel more rage and frustration at my Facebook friends for buying into “liberal propaganda” than I feel anger at the injustice in the world, I am a sinful woman. Every time I neglect even praying for change because I am so weary of the topic at hand, I am a sinful woman. Every time I post a snarky comment just to get one challenge into the otherwise one-sided chamber of my friends’ Facebook feeds, I am a sinful woman.
Our political system will not be healed by one more finger pointing at Donald Trump. Our political system could be healed by a million souls choosing to point their fingers back at themselves. Faced with a set of candidates that seem, at times, impossibly terrible, we need to set aside our debates, get on our knees, and plead with Jesus for forgiveness. God is the only trump card that can help us in such troubled times, and He responds when we turn to Him.
Here then, I pray for forgiveness for the Republican Party to which I belong—whose birth pains at this moment are so severe it looks as though this election may be a stillbirth.
Father, forgive us for not being good stewards of the time and resources You have given us. When we’ve had power, we’ve squandered it. When we lost it, we failed to treat our opponents with dignity. Help our politicians to spend their power for good and not for selfish gain. Help us to remember that even those who radically disagree with us on the direction our country should head are still Americans who seek what they think is best for our country.
Father, forgive us for spending more time and energy defending life in the womb than helping make life bearable outside it. Help us to repent and to dedicate more time to remind Christians of the need to adopt children—at all ages of life, regardless of the burden we may bear by doing so.
Father, forgive us for saying that we stand for family values while getting behind candidates whose divorces and adulteries tear at the very fabric of the family. Forgive us for saying that we want to defend the family while decimating black families by being “tough on crime.” Help us to remember mercy for those in prison, and to reform our corrupt and dangerous system. Help us to be upright in our personal, as well as our public, lives.
Father, forgive us for railing against increasing the minimum wage while failing to dedicate money to educational training that could revitalize the middle class. Help us to find ways to restore dignity to those without work and to open up avenues to greater career opportunities for all.
Father, forgive us for jumping to military interventions without weighing the consequences. Forgive us for neglecting to offer military aid when it could have saved lives. Give us your eyes to see when we may use our power to help, and to abstain from using it when it will cause harm.
Father, forgive us of our tendency toward factionalism and our propensity to declare others “un-American.” Help us to repent, Lord, and to live lives of radical love and grace that never cease to put the needs of others above ourselves. Help us to remove the plank from our own eyes before we pick out the splinters in others’.
Father, help us to elect a candidate of decency and respect who will serve our country well, seeking the ways of righteousness, justice, and mercy. Help us to remember that we live, not solely for the sake of our country, but for the heavenly kingdom that awaits us. Let us not pride ourselves in victory or despair in defeat, but accept any outcome knowing that You are in control and that You work all things for the good of those who love You. Grant us Your peace.
We ask this, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, the son You sent to forgive us sinners.
Jordan Gandhi graduated from Harvard in 2012 with a concentration in Philosophy. A proud penguin of Quincy House, she served as editor-in-chief of the Ichthus in 2011. She now works as a tutor in Irvine, CA, which gives her plenty of time to listen to audiobooks on her commute, when she’s not dancing to “Shake It Off.”