But whoever has been forgiven little shows only little love.” Luke 7:47
Apathy can strike us at any stage in life and in any area of our life. But what is apathy exactly? Apathy is an “absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement” or “a lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting.” We can have apathy in anything from our jobs, school, spouses, family, children, politics, hobbies, and yes even, unfortunately, God.
If we look at Luke 7:36-50, we see Jesus at a house of a Pharisee. An unnamed woman (different than the stories where they name Mary wiping Jesus’ feet in the other gospels) who had been in a sinful life (possibly a prostitute) enters the house, pours perfume on Jesus’ feet, and wipes it off with her hair. Jesus asked Simon a question, “Two people owed money to a moneylender, one 500 and one 50. Both were forgiven, which of them would love him more?” Simon answered correctly the one who had the bigger debt. Jesus then honors the woman for what she did and calls out the apathy of the people in the house who did not do the same thing for Him.
We see an important example here of what can happen in the Christian life when we either grow up in the church or we have been a Christian for a while. We get apathetic for the things of God. We lose our first love (Revelation 2:4). We lose sight of the fact that we have been saved from eternal punishment for our sin and we now have everlasting life where Jesus will bring to fulfillment a world with no sin, sickness, or death. I see newer Christians who have been saved out of immense bondage who have the freedom and joy many Christians never get to experience. To them, they have seen death first hand in the form of addiction, sin, new age, or the occult. They know the joy and freedom that Jesus gives and the removal of the curse over their life of death and decay. These newer Christians can be on fire for God and stand as an example for every Christian who acts apathetically before our Lord and Savior by refusing to read the Bible, witness to others, or love their brothers and sisters. Just like in the example from Luke, these newer Christians see fully the immense debt they were forgiven.
Many Christians are not purposefully apathetic. They can still love Jesus they just go through the motions. If we do not view our forgiven debt as significant (which it is), we can find ourselves thinking “well I was a decent person before I was saved”, “I didn’t do anything THAT terrible”, “I’ve grown up in the church, I’ve always loved Jesus, I never had THAT bad of sin.” We need to remember that the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23). This does not only mean the sin we ourselves created but the sinful nature we were born into. The sin we committed and still commit TODAY as Christians deserve death. We should never act so entitled to our salvation that we forget the great price that was paid by Jesus on Calvary so that we would not face what we actually deserved!
Now, there’s another aspect to this story of Jesus and the woman. The woman came in, overwhelmed with emotion, washing Jesus’ feet. Jesus told the Pharisees “her many sins have been forgiven- as her great love has shown.”
In other words, the woman was forgiven and showed her immense gratitude and love for Jesus.
THEN Jesus says to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” What Jesus says about the woman He then says directly to her. But why? She already “knew” that her sins were forgiven which is why she was there in the first place honoring Jesus. I feel this is more of a personal reassurance to the woman. She may have been haunted by reminders of the past and overwhelming memories of her sin. Jesus reminded her of His grace for her and of her forgiveness she needed to accept, even though it had already happened.
Satan is the king of guilt trips. If we have been forgiven from sin, God removes it as far as “the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12) provided that we “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). When our thoughts go to the past, we need to stop them before they snowball out of control. Our past can cause us to feel like we are unworthy of grace, unworthy to be used by God, and unworthy of love. We must turn these thoughts into love FOR God WHO IS WORTHY, just like the woman who wept over Jesus’ feet.
So how can we combat apathy in our Christian life? How do we not lose our “first love”? Apathy is also known as being “lukewarm” and is given as a warning to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:16). First of all, it’s not easy; it takes a willful effort on our part to read the Bible, to pray daily, to love our neighbor, to listen to God’s voice, and walk where He leads. Not out of “going through the motions” but out of genuine love and desire for a relationship with our Bridegroom who came and died for us and is coming back again.
We need to make our prayer like David after the prophet Nathan convicted him of his sin with Bathsheba in Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
Discerning Reflection: How have I been apathetic or even lukewarm in my relationship with Jesus? What can I do TODAY to address this? Do I truly desire this and why?
Prayer: Lord, restore to me the joy of my salvation. Thank you for your work on the cross and may I never take that for granted. Forgive me of apathy I have had and give me a fire again for a relationship with You! Amen.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Discerning Dad