“Without recognition of wrongdoing, there could be no mercy... True mercy goes on [past the wrongdoing], and with eyes wide open forgives anyway.”
~Iain M. Duguid.
The greatest love is the merciful kind. And yet, mercy is not softness.
Think about the last time someone really wronged you. You felt perplexed in how to handle the situation and were probably tempted to issue them two full barrels of putrid vengeful feedback at the earliest opportunity—but then you resisted in faith (at least that was the hope).
This is God’s ideal and it is ours also if we’ll only try it. Jesus said:
“Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.”
~Matthew 5:7 (NIV).
We see in the parable of the forgiving debtor (Matthew 18:21-35) this principle observed; he forgives his servant the massive debt he can’t possibly repay—as God forgives us ours. But then the servant forgiven for such a huge debt requires absolute penance from someone owing him much less. Hearing of this the forgiving debtor is furious; he cannot believe that the man he’s only just given a fresh financial life to can be so heartless in such a similar situation. And so the unforgiving servant gets the book thrown at him—the exact opposite of mercy.
Mercy is something we generally cannot truly know until we’ve been at the receiving end of it. This is why it’s a fantastic thing to know the saving act of God in Jesus, dying on the cross that mercifully he becomes “payment” for our sin.
And there’s a practical note to this issue of mercy inbound on forgiveness. When we refuse to forgive we enter a real life hell—no mercy is shown us via the spirit of our consciences, no matter how much we try to justify it to ourselves and others. We go a row, stepping around and trampling all over the peace we could have in knowing we forgave when we didn’t have to. And in forgiving thus is grace: forgiving as a choice. But wisdom knows that holding a resentment and bearing unforgiveness is injurious only, in the final analysis, to ourselves.
For the person who can shrug their shoulders—no matter the transgression—forgiving from the heart, letting the caustic stuff of pain just simply go, they are blessed with mercy themselves. Their pain of loss, hurt, embarrassment etc often simply evaporates in this peace that transcends understanding. This is the ultimate mercy of Jesus to engender our spiritual freedom! We were merciful and the Spirit of God is then hence showing us mercy.
The wilful act of mercy in forgiveness is both an act of surrender and an act of obedience to the Lord of life. We need to know this never fails, provided our act is made full and complete.
And best of all is what God gives us for the other person who perhaps doesn’t deserve the mercy but gets it anyway. Try it and you shall see! This can only be of God.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.