my growing-up church on Evans St., with the broad, gravel, circle drive around it
On one occasion during his public ministry, a Pharisee invited Jesus to his home for a meal. A woman with apparently an ill reputation showed up and anointed Jesus' feet with perfume, even cleaning his feet with her hair and kissing them, dirty and dusty though they must have been (since the Pharisee had not offered Jesus water to clean his feet).
Jesus explained that the person who has been forgiven much will love the Lord much, while the person who has been forgiven little will not love the Lord as much. (See Luke 7:36-50.)
I remember sitting in the church of my childhood and youth, Eastwood Chapel, southeast side of Fort Wayne. It was a small building housing a small congregation--maybe 30 people. I was a college student at the time, and on this particular Sunday I was sitting on the right side, about a third of the way back.
At that time, in that pew, I asked the Lord to help me understand his grace. Memories are imperfect, especially mine, but I was wrestling with how decent I was. All my life people had praised me for this achievement and that virtue. And I hadn't dived deep into the condition of my heart. So basically I had drunk the Kool-aid of people's praise. But I had seen other people praise God for his grace and cling to the grace of the Lord because they were bad people.
I knew grace was important, and yet I didn't feel I appreciated it. So I asked the Lord to help me understand it.
Over the years the Lord has answered that prayer. He has highlighted his grace by highlighting my sin. He has highlighted my sin in at least two ways. First, he has shown me my sinfulness by allowing some of the sins of my mind to become sins of practice. Second, he has taken me more deeply into my own heart to behold the variety of evils there.
In seeing my own wickedness I have come to cling much more to Christ and appreciate much more his grace and mercy.
The critical difference between the Pharisee and the woman is not degree of sinfulness. The critical difference is that one is blind to his own sinfulness and the other is eyes wide open to hers. And that critical difference leads to different responses to Jesus.
If you think you're a pretty decent bloke, ask the Lord to show you the truth.