{photo credit: oliviapalermo.com}

Jesus said the messiest people are the best at love.

The most screwed up, bad-choice making, dirty wake-leaving grimy ones among us get love better than the squeaky clean ones. Why?

“She who has been forgiven much loves much.”

When Mary made an appalling show of her love and gratitude for Jesus in a mess of hair, tears and a bottle of Chanel, Jesus didn’t reel backward in disgust. He welcomed the display.

How could he? He wasn’t some chauvinist inviting a woman’s worship. He saw the tears and perfume for what they were, an overflow of extravagant love in response to the greatest gift she’d ever gotten: forgiveness.

A lot of us Christians used to be addicts and jerks until we went to a church camp or had a hungover breakdown in our dorm room on a Sunday morning. Sometimes we got free right then, and for some, the clean-up took years.

Either way, it wasn’t long before we learned to speak Churchese, how to act and dress. We forgot what that moment felt like, the moment the dirt fell off and the weight too, finally clean and much, much lighter. Oh, and loved. Furious, anyway kind of love.

That memory faded, we started walking around with a measuring stick, judging people’s efforts and appearances. And it turned out no one measured up. We forgot it was about love in response to forgiveness, and it turned us into whitewashed Pharisees, bejeweled on the outside, corpselike on the inside. Enemies of love.

Jesus doesn’t want to remind us of our sin, of the old lives we used to live. He never wants to parade our old wardrobe past our view in some act of manipulation so we’ll just obey already.

But he knows remembering where we’ve come from keeps our hearts open and gentle toward the other pilgrims on this journey. Knowing we were and are forgiven turns a proud heart humble again and gives Jesus what he died for: a heart full of love for him.

I hate how I am always hurting people, especially the ones I am closest to. To them I am most thoughtless and selfish, in need of a good forgiveness scrub down.

But that’s not the end of the story. Every time I need to be forgiven is an opportunity for me to revel in this crazy love beaming down on me, not because I am so noble or even because I am holy enough to repent. But because it’s a Love that wants to love and has set me as the object of its, no his, affection.

And just as Mary shattered her perfume bottle at the feet of Jesus, wasting the whole thing on him, so his forgiveness shatters the box around my shameful heart, releasing an overflow of love and thankfulness for a goodness I never have to repay.

Do you struggle with receiving forgiveness too? How do you fight the urge to pretend you’ve got it all together?