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Seeing Like God

So there was Jesus dining and lounging — like he always did. Except this time, it wasn’t with the sinners, but with the religious folk. He received an invitation from Simon, the Pharisee. Simon probably wanted to see, firsthand, who exactly this Jesus of Nazareth was and what he was about — Simon had heard so many rumors about the man.

Think of the worst thing — the most embarrassing thing— that can happen to a party you are hosting.

What happened to Simon probably wasn’t even in the realm of his thinking: the town prostitute crashed his party, making a bee-line towards Jesus. Where does one begin to start counting the social faux pas?

  • Firstly, women were not allowed to be in the presence of men gathering. And here was this woman barging in on a gathering of men.
  • Secondly, she was unclean. They all knew who she was by reputation. And, let’s be real, there may have been men in that room who used her services. Not only were they indignant that a woman interrupted their gathering but they were probably now deeply concerned they may be outed. They don’t know why she barged in — it could’ve been to take everyone down with this social kamikaze.
  • Thirdly, she let her hair down. I mean, sure that’s no biggie for us today. But a woman letting her hair down was reserved for intimate settings only, never public. The men would’ve been extremely uncomfortable. I mean, I guess it would be like accidentally stumbling onto a heavily populated nude beach and not knowing where to look…
  • And then out came her jar of perfume. I was once told that those jars were a retirement plan of sorts. That most likely, that jar cost a year’s worth of wages. She takes that expensive jar of perfume (say, $30k worth) and pours it on Jesus’ feet. The waste. All that money — for what?

Simon had lost control of his party. The unwelcomed guest made a mockery of everything.

Simon was disgusted by the lack of social awareness from this woman. And it was made worse by the fact that she was that kind of woman. He saw her disgusting behavior and her gall to touch a so-called rabbi. "If this man were a prophet," Simon thought, "he would know what kind of woman is touching him. He would know that she is a sinner."

Jesus knew Simon was upset and Jesus knew why Simon was upset. So Jesus told Simon a story: “A certain lender had two debtors. One owed enough money to pay five hundred people for a day’s work. The other owed enough money for fifty. When they couldn’t pay, the lender forgave the debts of them both. Which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the largest debt canceled.”

Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.”(Luke 7:41-43 CEB)

And then Jesus asked Simon (in my honest opinion) one of the most important, poignant questions in scripture: "Do you see this woman?"

Because Simon didn’t — nay couldn’t—see this woman.

All he could see was what she was and what she did for a living — not who she is.

He couldn’t see what factors led her to live such a life. She could’ve been sold into slavery by her parents when she was a young girl (permitted by the law). Maybe she was a widow with no male family members, meaning that she was on her own in a society where women could not own property and livelihood was tied to a male presence.

Simon couldn’t see her— only her actions.

But Jesus saw her. And he saw a beloved daughter of God.

We have no idea what took place between Jesus and this woman before this encounter at Simon’s house. But whatever happened — it. changed. her. life. So much so, she parted with her retirement plan for Jesus. Maybe Jesus made her feel like a human being for the first time in her life — something Jesus did often. Maybe in Jesus’ loving gaze, she saw her identity — not as a sinner, but as a daughter. And maybe Jesus was calling her back home — back to who she was always meant to be.

Religion at its best is supposed to teach us to see things how God sees them. Good religion is about seeing rightly — or seeing Godly. But we all relate to Simon the Pharisee, don’t we? Sometimes we use religion to see what we want to see because it can be extremely difficult to see how God sees things.

It’s easier to dehumanize, belittle, ostracize.

But Jesus is asking us, too: "Do you see?" Do you see the humanity in your neighbor? Do you see that everyone is created in God’s image? Do you see that it’s not up to you to decide who is loved by God?

Do you see — not what they have done — but what they could become?

Jesus helps us to see.

The act of Holy Communion helps us to see.

We take communion because we’re invited by Christ to do so. We’re invited by Christ to join him at the table. The invitation, though, is extended to everyone — not just who we want to commune with, but with who God wants to commune with. Therefore communion should change the way we see one another. It requires us to see someone as wanted by God; as invited by God. Not only am I wanted by God, but that person is wanted by God. God wants their company as much as God wants mine.

Richard Rohr writes that what makes someone a real good Christian isn’t what they know or how many Bible verses they’ve memorized. It isn’t how often they pray. Nor is it about how often one goes to church. It isn’t how much they give or how much they’ve volunteered. All of that is important, don’t get me wrong.

What makes someone a good Christian is the ability to see Christ in everything and everyone.

How you see is what you see.
So how are you seeing the world?


Joseph Yoo is a West Coaster at heart contently living in Houston, Texas with his wife and son. He serves at Mosaic Church in Houston. Find more of his writing at josephyoo.com