A Matter of Perspective
What can change despair into hope, or hate into love? Our perspective! Living life as obedient followers of Jesus is often a matter of perspective. The Holy Spirit moves within us, gifts us with a different perspective and transforms our lives. We can easily see the power of perspective in our daily lives.
A high-school sophomore knew the power of perspective. She asked to talk with her parents after dinner. Sitting around the kitchen table, the young girl took a deep breath and informed her parents that she was pregnant. The parents’ reacted in a typical fashion. The dad threatened to kill her boyfriend after stringing him up by certain parts of his anatomy. The mother began to lecture her on the responsibilities of parenthood and how difficult it would be to attend school while caring for a child.
The girl allowed her parents to rant and rave for several minutes before holding her hands up signaling for silence. “I’m not really pregnant,” she said. The look on her parents’ faces was one of both shock, relief and confusion. “I just wanted you to be able to put it in perspective,” she continued, “when I told you that I got a C- in English.”
Repent—A Matter of Perspective
Scripture frequently addresses the concept of perspective. The word “repent” contains this concept. For those of us who have grown up in the church, our pastors and Sunday school teachers drilled it into us that repent means to turn around; do a one-eighty and follow the Lord in the direction that God directs us. Such a definition misses much of the power of the word. The word that so often is translated “repent” literally means, “To change one’s mind.” To change our mind is to change our perspective. Jesus proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come; repent [change your mind] and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15).
Instead of focusing on the pain and suffering of life, or the occupation by Rome, Jesus invited the people of his day to change their perspectives and see God at work in the world and present in the ministry of Jesus. In many ways, the Christian life is a matter of perspective; faith is a matter of perspective.
Simon the Pharisee—A Matter of Perspective
We see the power of perspective in Luke’s story of Jesus dining with Simon the Pharisee and the actions of an unnamed woman (Luke 7:36-49).
Simon was a good man. He hadn’t invited Jesus to dinner in order to trick him. From all appearances, Simon was interested in hearing what Jesus had to say. As a Pharisee he, like Jesus, was concerned with how a person lived out his life in relationship with God. Simon might have thought that he might learn something from Jesus.
Simon also thought that he was a pretty good guy. As a Pharisee, he would have been focused on obeying the commandments and countless laws that constituted a righteous life. Simon was also aware of the people who didn’t appear to share his religious concerns. That would include the woman who had made her way into the dining area and was accosting Jesus. She was a woman and a prostitute, certainly not a person Simon would associate with, nor would any self-respecting prophet.
A Matter of Perspective
Luke lets the reader enter Simon’s mind. He uses a little used literary device called “Internal Monologue.” It was rarely used in ancient literature. When it was, it indicated a time of crisis. Luke writes, “Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39) The crisis that Simon faces is determining if Jesus is a prophet and if his judgment of the woman is correct. The crisis carried with it the possibility that Simon might change his perspective.
Jesus challenges Simon’s viewpoint with a story about a creditor who had two debtors. One of men who was indebted to him owed a significantly greater sum of money than the other. The creditor forgave both of their debts. After telling the story, Jesus than quizzed Simon, “When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly’” (Luke 7:42-43). There is a similarity between the two creditors and between Simon and the woman. All had experienced forgiveness and love. Jesus invited Simon to change his perspective of himself, of Jesus, and of the woman.
Luke identifies the woman as a sinner. The woman, however, did not chose this style of life. It was the result of a patriarchal, unjust society. The woman is like the 2.4 million people—mostly children—who are involved in sex trafficking today. The laws of the day prevented women from owning property or working outside of the home. The only way a widow or single woman could survive was through begging or prostitution.
In all probability, the woman had previously encountered Jesus. She may have listened to his teaching. The woman might have even witnessed Jesus heal the sick or cast out demons. In her encounter with Jesus, the woman sensed his love for her and others like her. The woman began to change her view of herself. With a changed perspective, the woman no longer saw herself as unlovable, but rather as a person others could love.
A Matter of Perspective
The woman took a risk. She entered a place where women were not to be and acted scandalously. Then she touched a man in public. She didn’t stop there, though. The woman bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair and anointed his feet with ointment. Luke records, “She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment” (Luke 7:38).
Jesus did not rebuke the woman. Instead Jesus welcomed her attention, loved her and accepted her. The woman responded to Jesus’ love. The act of receiving love and giving love enabled the woman to change her perspective and live in salvation. For her, salvation meant experiencing God’s love and acceptance and sharing that love with others.
A Matter of Perspective for Us
Like Simon and the woman, Jesus invites us to change our perspective. To do this, we do not look at ourselves or other through the looking glass of judgment. Instead we look around us and stand in awe of God’s steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness. When we do this, we change our perspective and we see ourselves as living in God’s love, grace and forgiveness, and experience our salvation today.
A few weeks ago a local TV channel featured a couple who had been married for 72 years. Of course the reporter, who was less than half the age of the couple’s marriage, asked to what they attributed their long marriage. They said that it was because they never went to bed angry at each other. As a matter of perspective, we could say that they changed their perspective from one of anger to one of love and forgiveness. I think there was something more, though.
One common characteristic that I see in long term relationships is the different way they look at each other when compared with troubled marriages. With their unique perspective, couples living in marriages that have spanned decades, look in awe of each other’s love. The man would say, “I am the luckiest man in the world. My wife could have had any man she wanted, but she chose me.” The woman would echo the words of her husband and confess that she was the luckiest woman.
From our new vantage point, God’s presence in our lives awes us and we inspires us to share it God’s love with others. As a matter of perspective, we see the needs of others and also ways that we can use our talents and abilities to meet those needs. With our new perspective on life, we can live boldly and God’s Spirit can use us to change the world.