I wrote on my spiritual journey about the process of forgiveness, the road of grace & holiness. I was just reading this & this today about Isaiah 6 & the unforgiving servant, which I wrote about earlier in the month. The first post was talking about praying for our enemies, while the second one retold the story of Matthew 18:21-35. Both go hand in hand revolving around this word we call mercy.
In our world of seeking justice, righting wrong with a slap back, cheering the protagonist on toward triumph in their plot against the antagonist, it’s no wonder we truly have no idea what mercy is really about.
Most of us don’t live on the front lines of hell, where true dictators are oppressing us & taking away our human dignity & happiness. If you’re a church goer, you probably haven’t heard a congregational reading of Psalm 137 recently (or at all for that matter). The psalmist is speaking of the oppressors who have come in and dashed their babies against rocks, killing them and they want justice in return. It’s too easy to think that praying for our enemies only comes in these traumatic forms. Or that enemy is the vilified stepparent, corporate bureaucrat, or conniving thief. Yet, for the most part it’s not.
Jesus simply said this,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Sometimes an enemy is someone we love, but don’t respect. Most times it’s someone who was put in a position to guard us, love us, and look after our well-being; but, they have scarred us, wounded us, and broken our trust. The very people who some find easy to love is the very person others deem as enemy. It could be a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a trusted adviser, teacher or friend. For me, my enemies come in the form of people I have esteemed and loved dearly at one point, which makes it that much harder to love & show mercy. Because they are the people who have turned on me in one form or another.
Yet today as I was thinking about one of my “enemies” and how much anger can rise up at them. Jesus’ words remind me to pray for them. Not because I pray words of justice to pour upon them like the unmerciful servant. No, that would be accepting grace & mercy from the judge for myself, while calling for the law to be thrown upon them. Instead, I pray that mercy & kindness would be poured out on them.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. –Matthew 5:7 & 8
I realized that in order to understand mercy, I have to give it. And in order to see God, my arteries can’t be clogged with revenge & self advancement. And maybe, just maybe, forgiveness really isn’t about me & my issues, but more about cutting the anchor of narcissism and showing God’s glory to advance his goodness, grace, mercy & love. How much more freeing would our relationships & world be if we were able to free others from their debt “owed us?”
This cutting of the anchor, praying for our enemy business isn’t easy, but so freeing. As I have chosen to “cut” (forgive) the anchor, I have seen how my heart for my enemy turns to genuine love & compassion. I want what’s truly best for them. I begin to see them as the person God does. However, there are those days or weeks where the past creeps in and I begin to feel anything but love towards them. It’s like exercising & good nutrition–it’s ongoing. You can’t expect to stay fit & healthy by only exercising & eating well for two months out of the year. So how do you exercise the health of your soul? How do these words of Jesus in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ pertain to your current situation of blessing those who curse you & forgiving your enemies? What is your story of cutting the anchor to further God’s glory?
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…Do to others as you would have them do to you…If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that…But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”–Luke 6:27-37