40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
There are times when preachers and other Christians are tempted to minimize the severity of human sinfulness. Perhaps this comes from a rejection of the biblical understanding of man’s depravity, his total inability to do anything that pleases God apart from God’s intervention (cf. Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:10-17). Perhaps it comes from the preachers’ desire to be thought kind, loving, positive, or relevant. Perhaps it comes from a lack of biblical teaching on God’s holiness and wrath for sin.
Whatever the reason for their style of teaching—and I certainly would not say that they intend this outcome—, Preachers who fail to emphasize the extent and severity of the problem of man’s rebellion against God do more harm than they realize. We see this truth illustrated in Luke 7:40-43. In the context of this passage, a sinful woman weeps and worships Jesus. The religious teacher in whose home Jesus is sitting is condemnatory, thinking that Jesus would not ever allow such a sinner to be in his presence. The main point of Jesus’ response to this teacher is to show him that God forgives sinners, and the greater the sin of those sinners, the greater is the glory of their forgiveness.
A fair point to glean from this passage, however, is the importance of our understanding the severity of our sin. If the one who is forgiven more loves more because of the extent of his or her forgiveness, it must also be true that in order for us to love more and glorify God more, we must understand the severity of our sin and of God’s total hatred of our sin.
If a teacher never emphasizes to you that your sin is grievous, detestable, and disgusting to God, you will not grasp how amazing it is that God forgives you. If a teacher makes it seem as though God has never been angry at you for your sin, you will assume that being forgiven is really no big deal. If you are never taught that your sin, even your smallest sin, is an infinite offense to an infinitely holy God which deserves an infinitely terrible punishment, you will not grasp that the glory of your forgiveness is infinite too.
So, it is good to remember the severity of your sin and to understand the extent of God’s wrath that had formerly been against you. Only then can you grasp how wonderful is your forgiveness. Do not allow a temptation to sound ultra-loving or open-minded make you fail to see how great is the forgiveness of a sinner who had earned God’s hatred but who receives God’s love and grace.