On Sunday our pastor preached on Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” I feel like this is one of those passages I could quote from memory but I don’t always let the meaning sink in. Since Sunday I’ve begun mulling over the practical ramifications of being a merciful person.
Mercy can be defined as ‘not getting something that you deserve.’ So practically how do I show mercy to others? For me it has started with the admission, even if only to myself, that an offending party actually did wrong me. It was a few years ago that I realized I am really slow to consider someone my ‘enemy.’ Why? Well, if I claim someone as my enemy then, according to scripture, I’m supposed to “love them,” “do good to them,” “pray for them,” and even “bless them!” For me, it’s way easier to write someone off as an annoying friend or family member, dismiss what they did (later inevitably sulking over it or gossiping about it), or respond with an angry “they always act like this!” than it is to humbly say “He/she wronged me. This isn’t fair. Now I will forgive and bless in return. And quit talking AND thinking about it.”
Mercy is the pinnacle of the gospel. If we don’t understand mercy we don’t understand the gospel. Jesus didn’t say, “Ah, it’s ok, we’re just gonna look past that sin.” NO! He actually said “It’s not OK. That sin is NOT OK. You deserve to die spiritually and spend eternity in hell, separated from God, because of how you’ve sinned against Me. But I love you and I’m going to choose to die so that I can take that sin and carry it away as far as the east is from the west.” There’s something very powerful about telling someone or being told “you are forgiven.” Not, “it’s ok, don’t worry about it” but “it’s NOT OK AND I choose to forgive you.” The later response means I haven’t swept the offence under the rug, only to have it crawling back in my heart at a later date. This response is to know in your heart that you deserve to be upset, you deserve to be hurt, but you are choosing to not count this against them. Even seventy times seven times. You are choosing to not allow it to rule in your own heart because you know that Christ has forgiven you of much more than you have the privilege of turning around to forgive this person for.
I wish the person offending me wasn’t so personal. Why does it have to be close friends? Why does it have to be a family member? Why does it have to be MY SPOUSE? Surely we are close to reaching 70 x 7 times! Well, let’s just suffice it to say that Satan does a great job of hitting us where it hurts the most.
This shift in thinking is helping me realign how I deal with people every day. Instead of trying to convince myself not to have my feelings hurt over a friend’s actions I’m able to tell myself “Yeah, that wasn’t kind. In fact it seems malicious. But I’m going to choose to not dwell on it. I’m going to choose to remove it from my mind. I’m going to choose not to gossip about it.” Or for past offenses I still struggle to forgive, I tell myself “I will choose to forgive him. I will choose to mentally shred that email and not allow the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10) to use it in spiritual warfare again.” And to that random person who cut me off in traffic or that coworker that annoys me to death or that neighbor that was rude, “I’m done with road raging against you. Chances are you’re not even saved. Chances are my reaction to your action is the only picture of the gospel that someone will show you today.”
Now, let me just go ahead and warn you… when you do this in your heart Satan is going to try to fight you, hard! You’re going to find yourself talking to someone and you’re going to feel that same hurt, that same anger, that same desire to gossip, and/or that same revengeful feeling pop up. You’re going to want so bad to recount, one more time, what that person did against you and how it made you feel. Believe me, I’m sitting here writing this article and had to stop myself from using too many details to describe my situations above, because goodness it would make my selfish heart feel good to get those wrongs against me out in the open for every one of you to see. It’s hard to let that go. It’s really hard to let it go. It’s really hard to not brew on it ‘one more time’ and Satan knows it. He will settle for your initial choice to forgive if he can convince you to let it crawl back out to stew on it one more time. Be ready. Stand guard. “Not today, Satan!”
Nothing that someone can do to me, say to/about me, or throw at me will ever match the magnificent sin that I have committed against my Savior. With this in the forefront of my mind I am able to not dish out the consequences rightly deserved by others but rather respond with a blessing instead. Because that’s what Christ did for me.