In the midst of a dramatic yet oh so delicate moment, Jesus asks Simon-the-hard-hearted Pharisee a poignant question, “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 7: 44).
The question arises smack dab in the center of an amazing story of contrasting affections. Simon-the-know-it-all leader stands at a distance from Jesus while a “sinful woman” can’t stop showing Jesus her profound gratitude and love. Upon entry into his home, Simon didn’t show Jesus even the most basic hospitality: water to wash his feet, a customary kiss of greeting, or oil to anoint his head. But, this woman is relentless in her expressions of affection: wetting Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair, pouring out expensive perfume and then kissing his feet.
Sit with this passage (Luke 7: 36-50) long enough and you can’t help but enter Simon’s home and engage in this incredible story. The fact of the matter is: Simon missed everything. He missed the significance of Jesus’ presence in his home. He missed the powerful worship of the renewed woman. He missed out on the forgiveness, grace, and love offered by Jesus. He missed the opportunity to experience life-changing transformation. His little heart remained closed. His religious power mattered more than his changed heart. His guest, Jesus, became the host of this simple dinner party, but the eyes of Simon’s heart were crusted shut by his selfishness and pride.
This story reminds me of a few current realities. Firstly, I’m processing with a friend a violation she recently experienced in the workplace. Disregarded in every way, ignored, disrespected, colluded against, and powered over. She wasn’t included in decisions that would directly impact her work. The bosses simply barked an order and she was expected to follow in kind. No conversation. No collegiality. No compassion. No courage. She simply wasn’t seen.
Secondly, we’re also in the midst of Black History Month, a time when we are to be appropriately unsettled by the injustices inflicted upon our black brothers and sisters for far too long. A recent visit to the African American Smithsonian Institute museum in Washington DC brought me to tears as I witnessed with clarity the untold number of lives impacted by the powerful who suppressed their basic human rights. Watching “Just Mercy” for the third time. Listening to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and reading again his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and then discussing it with seminary students. All of this keeps the message in front of us, never to be forgotten. This all needs to be seen.
Fill in the blank…”Do you see this person?” It may be a woman, or a person of color, or a friend who’s abused, ignored, or irrationally powered over.
The evidence that we don’t see is astounding: we allow another to be powered over, disregarded, excluded, rejected, colluded against, judged, or violated. We stand as bystanders without the courage to be seen with the unseen.
In contrast, this is how we show another that we indeed “see” them: we inquire of and listen to one another; we include and respect one another; we value and validate one another; we think the best of one another; we are both with and for one another; we withhold judgment from one another; we forgive and show grace to one another; and we love and appreciate one another.
Jesus asks Simon a question he also asks of us, “Do you see this woman?” Open the eyes of your heart today and see like Jesus sees. Your life won’t be the same for very long.