This year’s Thrive Conference is a celebration of God’s audacious love: What it looks like, how it overcomes our greatest fears, and how it inspires us. We’re thrilled to announce that, in conjunction with the conference, we’ll be releasing a NEW devotional! On this 31-day devotional journey, you’ll discover the meaning, power, and purpose of God’s audacious love—and be inspired to share it with the world. Want a sneak peek? Join us from now until the conference as we reveal snippets each week—this week’s article is from Emery Kling and Mallory Dykema, part of an exciting special feature at Thrive. And don’t forget to join us for the Thrive Conference!

Have you ever wondered how to grow your capacity for love? Loving yourself and your neighbor?

When I prepare my action list, I come up with suggestions like these: Read my Bible. Pray more. Listen more. Be more generous—in all ways. Be more patient and helpful.

Yet when I read Luke 7:36-50, Jesus, who always surprises me, says loving more is different than applying a list of actions. Loving more is connected to understanding forgiveness.

Jesus addresses this issue with Simon, who is hosting a dinner party. They discuss a woman who has come with an alabaster jar of perfume, a precious gift. With tears and perfume, she anoints Jesus’ head and feet in an amazing act of devotion. Yet Simon seems uncomfortable with her and her actions, so Jesus explains:

44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

47 “I tell you; her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:44-47, NLT)

In the account, this woman was referred to as “a woman in that town who lived a sinful life” so her sins must have been very public. Sin isolates, confuses, and destroys; it creates shame and guilt. She may not have thought there was hope or a way out for her in her culture. Yet the account continues:

48” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven….Your faith [in Me] has saved you; go in peace [free from the distress experienced because of sin].” (Luke 7: 48-50, Amplified Bible)

Jesus’ love and forgiveness for her was audacious. Freeing. Transforming. This woman was known by God and rescued by him. She knew her many sins, repented, and received forgiveness. She understood his love had transformed her, therefore Jesus said she was able to love much in return.

Interestingly enough, I thought I could generate more love by doing loving actions, but Jesus says that the ability to love much is specifically connected to receiving forgiveness and letting it change me. If I don’t know how much I am forgiven, then I love little. God’s forgiveness gives me a chance to live differently. In humility, I receive his forgiveness and freedom ensues. There are new possibilities, answers, love, and hope. This new life is given and guided by a loving God, ever near to me. And out of the freedom of his love and forgiveness, I can love more.

No wonder the woman cried as she anointed his head and feet. They were tears of JOY. No one else had been able to offer an answer to her plight in the same way that forgiveness, God’s change agent, could. Only the true God could do that! And yet, she knew something amazing had happened. She was known by Jesus, felt understood, forgiven and encouraged, clean, alive. She knew she was lovedfor the first time. Now she had freedom to love too!

Loving more doesn’t happen with a set of rules or goals. More love comes from a deepening relationship with Jesus. It takes time and is a glorious journey so walk along with him. He is love; he forgives; he is the one who saves; he offers us new life and real hope. Receive him, share yourself, and take all that he offers. Draw close to him and his transforming love and forgiveness will open your heart wider and deeper than you could ever imagine.

Reflect and Respond:

In what ways have you tried to love yourself or your neighbors more? have you been successful?

How does receiving Jesus’s gift of forgiveness free you to love more audaciously?

Emery and Mallory are driven to tell stories—especially those that point to the hope of Christ. Emery Kling has been writing scripts and directing dramas within the church for 30 plus years. Her daughter, Mallory Dykema, is a dance performer, teacher and choreographer in the Minneapolis area. Together they are always dreaming up creative ways to express and share God’s story.