We just came through revival season at church. I think that’s how you say it…”came through” and “revival season.” I’m picking up the jargon as I go. In college I passed a church’s marquee that advertised a revival with dates and times. It struck me as a little strange. I was confused about the concept of setting a date or time, like you’ve called and left a voicemail that says “What’s up, Holy Spirit, we’re showing up at 7. Be there or be square. If you’re hungry, there’s a carry-in before. Your last name starts with S, so you bring a side dish.” I always thought to myself, who are they to tell the Spirit when to show up? How can you set a time and a date for that?
This was my first time going to something called revival, and I think I understand it better. Our pastor said at the beginning of the first night that this would perhaps feel better described by the word retreat, which is something I am very familiar with. I have very fond memories of going off on church retreats, have sessions to talk about the Bible and time to wander in nature and soak in some peace and tranquility. When I thought of those retreats which were so a part of my church culture growing up I began to comprehend the concept. The time and date is set. The word of God will be there, worship will be there and willing hearts eager to learn will be there, and where those three things are, the Spirit will inevitably be there as well. It’s not about setting a time and date and dictating the Spirit’s schedule, it’s about dictating your own schedule to show up to where the Spirit already is.
At the revival there was lesson after lesson about different women in the Bible, different women Jesus met. Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, the adulterous woman, and others. One of the things that made Jesus radical was his interactions with women. He not only saw and spoke to them, but he touched them and allowed himself to be touched by them. He removed the huge barrier set in front of women in their ability to approach God. And he almost in every occasion does it in the same manner. He acknowledges her and then points her out to others and helps them acknowledge them as well.
In Luke 7 Jesus is invited to a nice meal and is seated among respectable people when in comes this woman, well, perhaps this whore. She is at least “a woman who lived a sinful life” but the picture as I understand it from sermons preached my entire life is that she is a prostitute. There as they sit at the meal, she comes and anoints his feet with her perfume and washes it with her tears. She drys them with her hair. The whole act places herself in the role of servant to him. And as she is doing it, the others notice her.
They say, if he was a prophet he would know who this person was touching him. How often is that not the words from our lips? If our friend understood what type of woman she was talking to on the field trip, she would avoid her. We should tell her. If our teacher knew what kind of parents this other child had, then she’d understand why that kid is such a mess. We should tell her. If our sister knew that the guy who asked her out, years ago dated this other girl who is totally “that kind of girl” she’d never date him. We should tell her. We have all been there. Do you see what kind of person you are talking to? Let me enlighten you!
Jesus replies not by addressing the woman, not by using her as an immediate example, but speaking to the men there about men who owe money. Men and money. These are ok things to use for examples. Men. Money. (Insert Tim Allen caveman noise.) If two men owe a debt, one big and one small and both debts are forgiven, who is more grateful? Of course the one with a larger debt.
And then he says it….
Wait for it…
Do you see this woman?
What a question. Of course they see her. I can only imagine she is making somewhat of a spectacle of herself. They noticed her before Jesus gives her attention, but as His words draw their eyes from his face to his feet, he asks if they SEE her.
And he calls her woman. Not prostitute. Not whore. Not woman who lives a sinful life. Not any of the terms used to describe her by the Pharisees at that meal or the pastors in the pulpits for the next couple of thousand years. He doesn’t qualify her by her behavior, only by her created nature.
Do you SEE this woman?
He follows this question by clarifying who she is, and he NEVER throws her former self back in her face. He shows her to be a devoted servant and the only evidence that there had been great sin, is not the discarded clothes on the floor of her bedroom, but the discarded tears she laid down proving her vast comprehension of grace and gratitude.
Do you see her?
Because I do. I see her everywhere, in the men, women and children around me. In the school where my kids attend. In the pews around me. In the check out line at Dollar General.
Jesus asks us over and over again to look at people and see them. In doing so, he speaks to what I think is the sweetest face of God. Hagar saw it and called God “the One who sees me.” God from Genesis on until today has been seeing humanity, in its worst moments and vilest forms and not looking away.
If we are to strive to be more Christlike, then I propose that this is where we begin. We turn our vision upon the least of these, upon the outcast, upon the dirty, upon the unwanted…and maintain the gaze. We don’t qualify people by their actions and their history, but by their created nature, that they are simply women or men, simply beings created who may not by any merit of their own deserve to be loved, but who were created to be loved anyway. Who is this person for you? Can you picture the person you don’t take time to consider?
Do you see her?
Do you see him?
Now don’t blink.