November 11, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 7:44-47 (NRSV)
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 bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
It’s easy for those of us who follow Jesus to welcome him into our lives . . . but only so much. We acknowledge him as Lord, but hang onto authority of certain things. We invite him to be our Savior, but do not ask him to save us from sins we particularly love. Jesus has invited us to be in full, free relationship with him. He wants to be welcomed fully and freely into our lives.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we examined a story in Luke 7, in which Jesus attended a dinner party at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. Luke begins his account of this event by noting that Simon “asked Jesus to eat with him” (7:36). So, at least as the story begins, we assume that Jesus was welcome at Simon’s home. He wasn’t a party crasher.
But, as the events of the evening unfolded, it became clear that Simon had not really welcomed Jesus as an honored guest. In particular, Simon did not give Jesus water to wash his dusty feet, or offer Jesus a kiss of greeting, or anoint Jesus’s head with oil. Commentators debate whether these gestures were required of all hosts or merely well-known ways for hosts to show genuine hospitality. I’m persuaded by the historical evidence that Simon’s actions (or inactions) were not obviously and horribly rude. But, even if he did not strictly break established cultural norms, Simon clearly did not treat Jesus as a special guest. He did not show exemplary hospitality. It would be rather like if you came to dinner at my house and I didn’t offer to take your coat, didn’t point out where the bathroom was, and didn’t offer you a drink to quench your thirst. You’d feel welcome, sort of, and sort of not.
In a way, Simon reminds me of how many of us respond to Jesus today. If we’re Christians, then we have, in a sense, invited Jesus into our home. More accurately, we have responded favorably to Jesus’s invitation to us by opening the home of our lives to him. Our invitation is a response to his prior invitation. We say, “C’mon in, Jesus. Glad to have you here. Welcome.”
But then, even as we appear to welcome Jesus, we don’t really welcome him completely. We don’t open our full lives to him, allowing him to be our actual Lord. We don’t inconvenience ourselves for him, choosing rather to add him into our otherwise undisturbed lives. We don’t give him pride of place in our hearts, holding on tight to other loves, such as success, reputation, or wealth. We don’t give Jesus the time he deserves, relegating him instead to fill the open times in our full calendars.
Maybe this seems like I’m being too hard on us. So let me hasten to add that I know followers of Jesus who appear to welcome him fully into their lives, holding nothing back. But, as I think of many Christians I know, and as I think of my own discipleship, I’m painfully aware of how easy it is to welcome Jesus partially. We can say, in effect, “Yes, Jesus, be my Savior, but I don’t need you to save me from the sinful behaviors of which I am particularly fond.” Or, we say, “Yes, you are my Lord, but I still want to claim ultimate authority over my work, or my family, or my finances, or my calendar, or . . . .” I know there are ways I fail to welcome Jesus fully. Perhaps you can relate.
As I reflect on what I’ve just written, I find myself wanting to show uncompromised hospitality to Jesus. I really do want him to be fully and freely in my life. I expect you can relate to this yearning as well. If so, let me invite you to join me in the following reflection, action, and prayer.
How have you welcomed Jesus into your life? When did you first do this? What difference has it made in your life?
Can you think of ways that you resist fully welcoming Jesus into your life? Are there facets of your life that are, in effect, off-limits to Jesus? Are there ways you limit his salvation? His lordship?
What holds you back from welcoming Jesus fully and freely? Are you willing to surrender these limitations to the Lord?
If you are aware of ways you withhold full welcome from Jesus, talk to him about them. Be honest. Say what’s real in your life. Ask for Jesus’s forgiveness, and for the assistance of the Spirit to welcome Jesus completely and unhesitatingly.
Lord Jesus, yes, I do call you Lord. You are the Lord of heaven and earth. You are King of kings and Lord of lords. And you are my Lord, the one to whom I’ve surrendered my whole life.
Yet, my Lord, I know that I have not welcomed you fully into my life. There are parts of my life that I withhold from you. Or, to put it differently, there are parts of me that are off-limits to you. I do not show you the utter obedience that your lordship deserves. I do not give you free reign in my “house.” Forgive me, Lord.
By your grace and Spirit, stir up in me a new and stronger desire to welcome you completely into my life. May nothing in my life be closed to you. May no sin keep me back from being fully open to you. May no other love take precedence over my love for you.
Come in, Lord Jesus, and make yourself at home here. Abide in me, fully and freely. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. A group study on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Generous Hospitality at Work (Small Group Study Series)