Classified as a fallen woman, she crept, knelt, wept

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Her hopes had been high despite whispered warnings to herself about contacting a prospective husband through the newspaper classifieds. In the personal listings of other single women she had seen a vague outline of herself.

Single mom, SBF, 39, 5’7″, one child, likes walks in the park, travel and going to the movies. Looking for honest, down-to-earth SBM 30-45, for dating.

Another had said,

Working mom, SBF, 27, 5’2″, two kids, works and goes to school, looking for SB/WM 25-40, who has children, for fun, friendship, maybe more.

Her gaze quickened as it arrived at the “MEN SEEKING WOMEN” section. One ad headlined “Marriage oriented” describes a “soft-spoken gentleman, sentimental, with traditional and family values, financially independent.” One for a “good man” said he likes “bowling and cuddling on the couch at home,” a man looking for “a good woman.”

For “Ready to settle down,” an SBM described himself as a “father of three, enjoys walks, talks, movies, travel, looking for an SBF.” Another for an “avid sports fan” indicated he was looking for “a fun, confident lady.” Words such as “honest” and “upfront” drew you — one man said he “would like to meet a secure and independent” woman. Another was from a widower, 6 feet tall and father of two children who is “starting over.”

SHE IS IN A PREDICAMENT. She no longer has a personal connection to the man with whom she thought she had fallen in love. After two months of dating, he’s gone. She yielded to his caresses; she is carrying his child while wholly lacking the support of any covenant promise. She is despairing of what to do. A baby unplanned. A relationship broken. An STD — maybe. Her spirit is shattered. A heart tie has been snapped and the severed tendril pulses blood like a chopped aorta. The “fine man seeking long-term relationship” has been gone a month, and there is absolutely no way she can have a baby and keep her job. Everything is dark and cold. Has she pursued help from her family? Yes, but probably not enough.

Abortion seems like the only option.

Hardening her heart in preparation for going through with it is the most emotionally draining and unnatural thing she remembers doing.

Had she been in church Sunday she might have learned from the reading in the seventh chapter of the gospel of Luke in which a woman like her appears.

Had classifieds existed in that day, hers would have appeared under the headline “Ready to start over”:

Woman, late 20s, never married, one-time tart sorry for past, eager for platonic relationship leading to marriage, seeking one who accepts her as she is and has forgiving heart.

JESUS IS INVITED to the house of a Pharisee, a teacher named Simon, and “a woman in the city who was a sinner” comes to the Pharisee’s house. Mealtimes of such public men had a public aspect to them, and so she enters his property and creeps up to Jesus. She has with her an alabaster flask of fragrant oil. She “stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.”

Simon thinks, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” But Jesus reads his thoughts, and proposes a conversation.

“‘Simon, I have something to say to you. *** There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. And when they had nothing with which to repay he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?'”

The host answers, the one who is forgiven more.

Jesus won’t let the matter drop with this good answer. He compares Simon’s treatment of Him as a guest with the way the woman is lavishing love and care upon him. Simon, he says, gave Him no water with which to wash His feet, a custom in those days of sandals and dusty roads. But she has wiped his feet with the tear-dotted hairs of her head. Simon gave no kiss, “but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But who whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

And now, remarkably, Jesus pronounces her free from the burden of her sin. ” *** He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven. *** Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50).

THIS WOMAN HAS EXPERIENCED deep sorrow. She is fallen. She is a sinner. She knows it. Publicly she is a bearer of scandal for violation of the seventh commandment that prohibits adultery and fornication. She is marked. Her reputation precedes her, trails her like a bad odor. Her sorrow takes her somewhere, to repentance unto life, a gift that only God gives. You may be sorry for your past indiscretions and your most recent one — and your plans to seek an abortion. Regret for the consequences of sinful deeds is one thing.

But sorrow unto salvation is far greater, and has an altogether different end.

It is a forgiveness of sins that one’s heart welcomes so powerfully that all you can do it weep at the feet of Jesus, as this woman does.

The greater the sins one recognizes by the power of the Holy Spirit, the more lavish the tears. The darker the stains of the past, the greater thanks to God for forgiveness.

The Bible records another encounter between Jesus and a woman facing judgment as an adulteress caught in the act (John 8:3). Jesus sends away her accusers on the grounds that no one can make an accusation for a capital offense who is guilty of the same; all skulk away until only she and Jesus remain. Jesus asks, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” The criminal case against her has evaporated, and though her offenses under the law are of a capital sort, she has her life. And more: “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” She has forgiveness.

In these accounts is recognition of sin, and repentance of the breach of God’s commandments. A woman accepts the term “fallen.” Simple Christian people believe that this message of repentance is important for a woman in a crisis pregnancy, a man guilty of stealing from his employer, a neighbor who has spread a slander, a man guilty of hypocrisy.

We are all fallen men, and fallen women. Without sorrow to God for offending Him, a mother bearing an unwanted child has no choice but to commit new sins to cover up the evil results of the old. An accountant stealing from his boss can only weave more lies to cover his theft.

Only with the comfort of the Word of God and the society of Christian people at a faithful Bible-believing church can one arrive at a just solution to one’s sin-created crisis. The solution is to submit to the sovereign grace of God, as does the visitor to the Pharisee Simon’s house.

If one recognizes his sins as great, he opens himself to a great forgiveness and a great healing. We are debtors, and an unpayable burden is about to be lifted. Will we admit we owe 500 denarii? Or is it only 50?