For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 (ESV)
In the movie, Legally Blonde there is a scene where the main character, a stereo-typed, California sorority girl is introduced to her classmates at Yale Law. Within the briefest exchange of dialogue, the differences between this girl and the members of her orientation group become painfully obvious. All but the lead hold multiple graduate degrees from challenging programs, most have years of extensive volunteer service, and each is confident of their place at Yale. The heroine has only her life experience to offer as her qualifier for her admission. And that is seemingly hollow and superficial.
Have you ever felt as if you were the glaring misfit in a group of highly qualified individuals?
Recently I had the opportunity to be introduced to a group of men and women who all held what I consider to be the Christian Pedigree. Most of these individuals’ stories resemble the following:
- saved at young age (4/5 yrs old)
- families strong in ministry (children of pastors or missionaries)
- home-schooled or private Christian schooled; appropriately followed by attendance at Christian University
- met spouse in youth group (junior high/high school)
- engaged faithfully in decades (if not multiple) of service (missions, orphanages, homeless, at-risk inner-city youth, etc…)
- certain, in the absolute, in what God wants to do next in their lives.
This information was gleaned as we sat around a table, introducing ourselves and explaining what had brought us to this particular venture. I had the privilege of going last, of listening to the 15-plus individuals share their shining histories, seemingly unmarred by the world. May I tell you that during this experience, I vacillated between sinking lower in my chair and arching my neck in self-preserving pride? It wasn’t pretty. In situations like this, I have a tremendous propensity to measure myself against other believers. This particular tendency was more pronounced than ever in this room full of people with whom I was all together unfamiliar. The seeming religious élite.
I, in my mind, smacked of this world. Literally reeked of it. I was tempted to gloss over, yadda-yadda, through certain parts of my story; then in the next instant, enticed to test the acceptance of these alleged little-Christs by flooding them with gory details. Would their eyes bug out of their heads, mouths hang agape? Would I be able to read the judgment on their faces?
Upon contemplation, I was reminded that my path puts me in the company of another woman for whom Jesus displayed a great tenderness. In Luke 7:36-50, we find Jesus dining at the home of a Pharisee called Simon, one of the Israelite Pedigrees of His day. No doubt Simon had the right family, he had certainly been educated in the appropriate schools; he had undoubtedly pursued a relative form of higher education and internship under a notable teacher of the day. Simon’s acts of service were most likely judged by his entire community and deemed worthy of a man in his position – a religious leader. While we are not sure why he invited Jesus to dinner, we can not assume it was to merely laud his own position. Perhaps this Pharisee truly wanted to be close to Christ, to know Him, to come into a relationship with Him. As voyeurs into this brief moment, we can not judge Simon’s heart. We can only observe what is revealed to us directly through Scripture.
At some point during the meal, a woman “who had lived a sinful life” enters the Pharisee’s home with an expensive jar of perfume (37). She positions herself behind Jesus, weeping, wetting His feet with her tears. To dry them, she uses her hair and then kisses the feet of the Master. She finishes her act of worship by bathing Christ’s feet in perfume. This moment is so personal, so tender, so completely unavailable to us distant observers, that there is no dialogue. It is an act solely between a broken sinner and her Savior ~ her heart to His.
This intimate act was likely unsettling to those who were immediately privy to it. The Pharisee, while observing the silence, has an internal monologue, noting that if Jesus was truly a prophet, He would know that this woman at His feet was unworthy of touching them – that she was a sinner. Christ, however, being able to hear the thoughts in Simon the Pharisee’s heart, responds with a parable: two men owed money to a lender, one indebted 500 denarii, the other 50. The moneylender forgives both debts. Jesus then asks, “Which one will love him more?” Simon responds logically: the one whose debt was greater. To complete the lesson, Jesus points out to Simon all the differences between his actions and those of the sinful woman:
- Simon offered no water for Christ to wash, the woman wet His feet with her tears
- Simon did not greet Jesus with a kiss (as was custom), the woman did not stop kissing Christ’s feet
- Simon provided no oil with which to anoint Jesus’ head, the woman bathed His feet in perfume (the more expensive of the two).
Jesus ends His lesson with these words: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." (47)
When my turn finally came, I landed where I generally do: truth. In God’s perspective, we are all the same ~ Christian Pedigree or sinner. Their pedigree is mine, in that we share kinship as children of God. These saints are as depraved as I without Christ. Their birth rights no nobler, influence in the kingdom no greater, nor sins no less than mine. These pristine sheep simply walk a different path. And in that, I am called to share my experiences, not to shame my kinsmen, but to glorify the name of our God. We are each members of one body, useful in different ways, and all completely dependent upon the sacrifice of Christ.
As for the table full of believers, of whom I was unsure would count me worthy, they did not judge. They embraced me as a sister in Christ. Alongside me, they acknowledged and offered praise for the grace and mercy in all our lives ~ and the source from whence it comes. Christ alone.
Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don't see many of "the brightest and the best" among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.
~ 1 Corinthians 1:26-32 (the Message)