“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy”
Correction: I could write quite easily about having compassion on someone in need. Even easier if all they need is my compassion to meet some physical need of theirs. I will gladly spare a drink or a dime.
It’s a different story if the person needs forgiveness. Namely, my forgiveness. I’d rather avoid that kind of discussion.
In these instances, wrath seems a more befitting topic. And when I’ve been hurt, disrespected, or blatantly sinned against, I want revenge. Nothing too outrageous, but something that will mildly even the score. Maybe we can talk forgiveness after I’ve countered with my snide remark, or my snarky insult, or my chilling silence. I don’t want to venture too close to mercy when it makes life easy for you when your actions have made it hard for me.
Mercy is messy. It requires engagement.
Mercy is risky. It’s likely the offense will be repeated.
It’s hard to write about mercy, because words can’t wrap themselves around that kind of a messy risk. Only grace can. Words are about clauses and conditions and judgments explained—things which grace knows nothing about.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. No clauses. No conditions. No making the score even. Just mercy.
Only by recalling the grace I’ve undeservedly received from a holy God will help me to step away from the cliff of revenge. Only by considering that the grace I’ve received is a grace to be given away will help me to step toward another’s need. True forgiveness is always about stepping away from one option, to step into a greater reality—the reality that I’ve been forgiven.
Today—every day, in fact—some spouse, child, parent, sibling, friend, neighbor, or jerky driver is going to need my mercy. They will deserve at the least a lecture, so they know of their offense. At the most, they may deserve wrath—angry, unrestrained judgment. But if, just if, I remember when I got what I deserved, they will get grace.
Grace that forgives them.
Mercy that invites them to have another opportunity at wounding me.
Love that shows them they are more than their offense against me.
Mercy is a compassion fueled by remembrance. We can remember the offense. Or we can remember how much we have already been perfectly loved by Someone.
Yes, I know sometimes it’s foolish to forgive. The cross has looked that way to a good number of people throughout the centuries. Yes, I know it’s vulnerable to forgive those who have made a habit of hurting you, or maybe you’re just tired of being the forgiving kind. Take to heart what Christ has done for you. No offense against you can compare to your offense against Him. Let the knowledge of His grace demonstrated toward you make you gracious.
I suppose it’s fitting that it’s hard to write about mercy—it wasn’t ever supposed to be a word confined to ink and lines. If it were, there’d never have been a manger. Never a cross. No, mercy is to be embodied boldly—like Jesus did—by all those who claim to have their need met by His grace. The cross declares there is more power in “I forgive you” than in “I’m sorry.”
If you listen carefully, you will hear this Beatitude asking you, “Does it matter more what’s been done to you or what’s been done for you?” How will you embody your answer to that question today? Who today has a need that you can meet with your understanding of grace? Does someone need your forgiveness—why won’t you freely give it? Is your heart hard and heavy with offenses, wounds, and bitterness? Are you prone to forgetting the mercy you’ve received? Go answer these questions without words. Remember mercy. Show mercy.