Earlier this week, Austin and I were listening to worship music when the following lyrics caught my attention:
“This will be my anthem song: Jesus we love you, oh how we love you. You are the one our hearts adore.”
You can probably guess that it was the word “anthem” that caught my ear. It is a word we have heard over and over and over again in the media, on Facebook, and from the mouths of our coworkers and fellow students all week. There is argument and harshness surrounding this word right now.
Then I heard it in this context.
The context of simply loving Jesus. The political jargon was removed. The heartache was left at the door. It was just Jesus. Only Jesus. Only adoration.
Merriam-Webster defines Anthem this way: a usually rousing popular song that typifies or is identified with a particular subculture, movement, or point of view.
All over scripture, we see believers worshiping in anthem song to the Father. In Psalm, David creates anthems that the nation of Israel uses to worship God. In Revelation, believers are united with the Father once again and we sing an anthem to Him alone. And in the following story, a woman demonstrates anthem worship by identifying herself as an unlikely child of God.
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And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
(Luke 7:37-50 ESV)
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Today, I want to challenge our idea of anthem–not to take a stand on the anthem argument of our country; rather, I want us to begin questioning who and what we are setting ourselves apart for.
Let’s begin with some context about what is going on here.
- Simon is the Pharisee who had invited Jesus into his home. Usually, when we think of Pharisees, we think of the evil religious leaders who hated Jesus and everything he stood for. However, here we see a religious leader who was genuinely interested in who Jesus was. Jesus entered his home to teach him as he did the tax collectors and sinners alike.
- This woman was most likely a prostitute–someone that a religious leader could spot from a mile away. Someone who was not to be touched or interacted with. Someone that religious leaders would never expect God in the flesh to touch, much less forgive.
- The oil, tears, and hair that she worshiped Jesus with was all she had.
- Jesus and the woman had most likely had some kind of interaction previously that we are not told about. And since we are not told about it, clearly, God did not mean for us to know about it.
The Pharisee and woman were the same amount of sinful.
In this story, we have two characters. First, you have the religious leader who knows he is a sinner, but cannot seem to wrap his head around how deprived of holiness he actually is. Second, you have a woman who’s sins have been abundantly made known to the world. She is ultra aware of her unholiness. She is reminded of it daily–even hourly. Sometimes every moment.
Though these two characters are from the ancient of days, are they not each one of us?
I don’t think we understand what we have been forgiven of.
Admittedly, I often fall into the category of the Pharisee. I was raised in church. I have always held roles in various ministries. Some might even call me a leader in my inner circle of faith. I know the rules. I know how I am to live.
Most importantly? I know how to hide my sin. I know how to look as if I am the perfect Christian–following all the rules and exacerbating my holiness.
Because I am really good at that, I can sometimes trick myself into believing that my sins are somehow less than the person who the world looks at as some kind of “greater” sinner.
Our faith is ALL we have.
In reality, there is going to come a day when I am standing at the feet of Jesus, and every good work I did on this earth will be just as known as every sin I spent my life trying to hide. I will stand before the Father accused by the tempter. At that point, I won’t have anything to stand behind or be covered by except the blood of Jesus. All my sin will be in the open.
It will be obvious and clear and all will be aware of it.
We won’t be able to say, “well I went to church every Sunday!”, or “I led worship for the kids,” or “well that person sinned worse than I did!”
We will just have Jesus and the fact that He has given us a faith to grasp for in the face of sin.
We will have His blood and sacrifice as our sole cover for our transgressions.
Our faith must be our Anthem.
So when we think about Anthems, let’s begin considering them as the thing in which they are: the song that sets us apart.
Am I saying we should never stand for any kind of anthem: alma-mater or national song? Absolutely not.
Am I saying we should consider what our first loyalty is? Absolutely.
I am saying that when we put God and country on the same level, we diminish that which we have been forgiven of. We forget that it is not our country that makes us less sinful or better than another. It is Jesus’s blood alone.
This post is not about taking a stand. It is about taking time to fall. To fall on our faces before Jesus and asking Him that we might be taken out of our selves. It is about recognizing our vast unholiness. It is about knowing that no matter how hard we fight for this country, it will fade. We won’t care one bit about our state of freedom when we are worshiping Jesus for eternity. We will only be concerned with the freedom He has given us.
We will be standing and jumping and kneeling and falling before the face of our Savior.
Let’s start practicing that now. Let’s spend more time in worship than in worry. Let’s put on blinders for Jesus and give Him all glory for any good thing we might have.
While we are at that, sisters and brothers, let’s ask Him how we are being a witness for him for those who are afflicted and oppressed. We will begin to hear and understand the hearts of those who we do not understand. Our hearts will be broken for the injustices of this world.
That was His heart.
He looked at the woman who the world saw as a sinner and said, “your sins are forgiven.”
Her anthem was heard. Her heart was made know.
Her eternity will be spent forever repeating that anthem song.
What is your anthem song? Is it a passage of scripture? Is it a worship song? If it has little to do with Jesus, we have a problem. We have an anthem that is meant for this world and this world alone.
More importantly, if we are allowing that anthem to cause us to speak down to one another, to hold ourselves as higher or more holy than our fellow believers, we are putting the kingdoms of this world over the kingdom of God.
Let our anthem be our faith. Our love for Jesus. Our excitement for His kingdom alone. Other things may be important to us here and now. I do not want to deny that. But be warned, oh Christian: they will surely fade.