“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ. And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
— 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 (NRSV)
We need to know when and how to forgive, not holding a person ransom beyond the redemption of trust past what is reasonable and merciful. Reasonable people need a way back into the fold. And unreasonable people need to be left where they are. Knowing the difference between these is the wisdom of discretion.
We need hearts healthy toward mercy; minds connected to the heart of God.
In this permissive age, as was the case in First Century Corinth, it is too easy to get justice wrong; to execute mercy for the unreasonable, whilst missing the mark and being too tough on the reasonable person.
If we push the reasonable person too far we may compel them to become unreasonable. Yet, if we offer mercy for the unreasonable person, all reasonable people around us will be tempted to become unreasonable.
People hate bad justice.
Erring on the Side of Mercy
If we were to get one version of justice wrong it would be better to be more merciful.
The rationale is simple. Where we are more merciful we trust the person we’re forgiving, which doesn’t mean we necessarily trust them beyond our forgiveness. But they have fellowship with us, again. This is healing for them and us.
When the relationship is restored the opportunity is with them; they shouldn’t want to make the same mistake again. Having erred on the side of mercy we have done the right thing by trusting again. We did it so as to protect them from Satan’s clutches.
Should they disappoint us again we would have further cause to reinforce acceptable standards. But given the chance, most people could be expected to enjoy the fruit of grace, and improve that aspect of their engagement with us so it was no longer an issue.
It’s important that we are quick to forgive, for we put at jeopardy our rapport with God otherwise. Our personal hurts we are to absorb. And we work with God to forgive. God will create the heart within us to forgive someone if we let him.
Gifts of grace are bountiful toward mercy. In a race between truth and grace, grace must win. We should not err in forgiving the reasonable person.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.