Simon the Pharisee had invited Jesus over for dinner, perhaps to examine his credentials or engage in a little theological sparring. But when a woman with a reputation crashed his party by tearfully washing Jesus’ feet and anointing him with precious ointment, Simon thought to himself: “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him…” (Luke 7:39). In verse 44, Jesus responds, “Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’” The question was more than rhetorical, because it was obvious that Simon did not see the woman, but only “what sort” of woman she was. Of course, people do this all the time: we pigeon-hole folks behind labels, categorize them as faceless statistics, give them names and stereotypes and think we know them. Jesus didn’t do that. He saw faces—always faces. He discipled a Roman collaborator, a couple of Zealots, some of the Pharisees, an Urbanite, several Hay Seeds, a whole bunch of women, and even non-Jews and Roman oppressors. He calls us to do the same—to see faces.
In the last 2 years, the rift in our denomination over gay marriage has greatly intensified. Many of our people are bracing for a split. Unfortunately, we have been talking past each other for a long time.
I find hope, however, in Jesus’ practice of seeing and discussing people and not just issues. As increasing numbers of gay folks come out of the closet, more and more United Methodists will come to see this issue personally. When we stop arguing about homosexuality and start talking about Anna, Jamie, Alex and Samantha, hearts will change—and so will our church. But until then we need to keep asking ourselves Jesus’ question: “Do you see this person?” Have you given this issue a face before you dismiss thousands of people from full participation in the life of the church?Grace & Peace, Pastor Paul