Idols Keep Us From His Transforming Love
This is a story about the before and after of Karla Faye Tucker, a woman who was executed for a brutal crime, but in her fourteen years on death row impacted thousands because she was so TRANSFORMED by Christ. Everyone who even met her after Christ was moved by her radiance.
I have been working with Linda Strom, who was Karla’s mentor and biographer (Karla Faye: Set Free) to create a video curriculum for incarcerated women and women in shelters. I’d love for you to see the first video—for it includes four minutes of Karla sharing her testimony.
In a picture of Karla when she was first brought into prison (before Christ) she looks lifeless to me, in comparison to the vibrant woman she became.. We are also in awe that her prison number was 777—the number associated with God. Surely God chose her to display His transforming power—not because she was lovely, but because He saw what she could become. He looks at you in the same way.
In her testimony, she tells of how she didn’t even care that she had brutally murdered two people. But she began reading the Bible in prison, and had this amazing sense of being loved. Then she said God reached into her heart and pulled up the evil by the roots.
I have seen so much vibrancy, joy, and love for Christ within the prison walls. I never get a reception outside like I do in Linda’s faith dorms (these are two-year prisons where prisoners who have shown the fruit of true repentance can grow, so they can go back to their prisons and mentor others). They are jumping up and down when they see us coming. So many, despite losing comfort, control, and approval are radiant with God’s love.
I have realized that while our idols seem to be friends—they keep us from intimacy with God. It isn’t just initially in salvation from the wrath of God, but every day. When we get in bed with an idol, we push away God. But when we let go, as Karla did, we experience His transforming love.
As a preface to this Bible study, this is an unnamed woman—a prostitute. She is neither Mary of Bethany (a similar incident, but right before Jesus' crucifixion—this is early in the ministry) nor is she Mary Magdalene (Mary Magedeline was a demonic, not a prostitute.) She was a prostitute who had a tiny alabaster jar of perfume that she probably wore as a necklace, part of her trade, part of her allure. Simon, like Nicodemus, is curious about Jesus—but wants to keep it intellectual, wants to stay in control.
Read Luke 7:36-50
- Describe the scene in Luke 7:36-37. Try to make it real by putting it in a contemporary context. Imagine Jesus dining at a fine restaurant with Simon in San Francisco…what might this scene look like now?
- What does Simon think in verse 39? What does this tell you also about Simon?
- It’s always dangerous when Jesus says, “Let me tell you a story!” What is the story he tells in verses 41-43?
- How does Jesus contrast the woman with Simon in verses 44-47?
Many feel that the point is that if you have terrible sins, like this woman, like Karla, that you will love more. But that is missing the point. What Simon could not see was the depth of his sin. He was in a sorry a state as this woman, he just couldn’t see it. If we could see the depth of our sin, how much we want to get in bed with our idols, how deep is our depravity—then we would better appreciate the depth of Christ’s forgiveness and love.
Has this study of idolatry turned the light on the depth of your sin?
Simon wanted to stay in control—to keep this intellectual. The woman is broken and spilled out. She is taking her tool of the trade, her perfume, and using it in a better way. Ponder these questions carefully:
- How do you want to stay in control? How is the Lord speaking to you?
- What reason is Jesus whispering to you to let go?
- Who experiences the most joy, the most peace, the most transformation?
- In verses 48-50, what does Jesus say? Why does this surprise the people?
This reminds me also of the time Jesus asked, “What is harder—to forgive sins or to say take up your bed and walk?” I have only recently understand why He asked that. Of course it was much harder to forgive sins for it meant He has to go to the cross. This is something we must remember daily. We are loved—so deeply—so we can let go...let go of our idols and trust Jesus will meet us.
What is your take-a-way?
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