I’ve lived in South Georgia for almost 18 years. As a “Dang Yankee” (one that isn’t going home), there are several things that I still find it challenging to deal with. Number one…they have prehistoric bugs here in the South. I had never seen a cockroach with the wingspan of a 747 until I moved here. The ones in New York just look at you when you turn the light on in your apartment and say, “Hey! You mind? We’re eatin’ heeah!” Number two…the humidity level hovers around 100% almost ALL YEAR LONG! When I first moved here, I’d walk outside and lose ten pounds in an hour. And number three…people simply aren’t in a hurry to get anywhere in the South. I can’t tell you how many times I’m driving down the road at 55 mph (ahem…okay…maybe not exactly 55) and a little old lady pulls out in front of me and fails to step on the accelerator, causing me to dip the front end of my car into the pavement. This last scenario is probably the toughest for me because of how I’ve learned to drive over the years. In Italy, for example, I’d practically drive my Fiat Uno on the sidewalk along with everyone else to avoid a traffic jam. I have mellowed out quite a bit, so instead of giving the offending driver a glimpse of my best road rage impression, I try to give them a “bless your heart” instead (no comments from the peanut gallery, Lena :)).
So what do these scenarios have to do with this next installment? The first two, absolutely nothing. After all, a good writer tries to say something clever to engage the reader’s attention. The last, however, has everything to do with it. It’s an example of mercy. No, seriously. It is. I can see you scratching your head saying, “Huh?”, so let me explain. The woman driving the car wronged me, and I’ve learned to forgive her for it. I know…it’s very basic, but it’s mercy nonetheless.
Mercy is something that we all struggle with almost on a daily basis. Ever have one of your colleagues stab you in the back? Husband stay on the golf course a wee bit too long when you could have used help cleaning the house? Wife spend a little too much time at the nail salon (that can take an ETERNITY, guys!) when you were hoping to come home to dinner on the table? Or how about when your teenagers spout off at the mouth because they’re right and you’re wrong, and they don’t need a curfew? And the list goes on and on and on. Our human nature calls for us to lash out at the offender, to give them a ripping they’ll never forget. We want to punish them for hurting us and not doing what we feel they should do. In our mind, we are the ones in the right.
In actuality…we’re the ones that are totally wrong. Could you imagine if Jesus didn’t take the stripes for us and die on the cross for every wrong thing we’ve ever done or ever will do? Stop and think about that for a moment. And keep that in mind the next time someone hurts your feelings or does something to intentionally hurt you. But what if they kill one of your close friends or relatives? God’s word says we’re to forgive them. What if they hurt one of your children or your spouse, physically or emotionally? God’s word says we’re to forgive them, too. What if they cause you to lose everything you’ve worked so hard for and leave you with nothing? Yup. Them, too. Yeah, my thoughts exactly. I don’t know if I could either. But until we learn how, we’ll never receive the full blessings of God that He wants for us. He teaches us this in the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor…
“Then Peter came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’
‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’
‘Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold- along with his wife, his children and everything he owned- to pay the debt.
‘But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him and forgave his debt.
‘But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
‘His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor couldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
‘When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
‘That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” – Matthew 18:21-35
And the study guide sums this verse up pretty well…
“Because God has forgiven all our sins, we should not withhold forgiveness from others. As we realize how completely Christ has forgiven us, it should produce an attitude of forgiveness toward others. When we don’t forgive others, we are setting ourselves above Christ’s law of love.”
The moral of the story is this…life is too short to not forgive those who need forgiving. You could blink, and the next thing you know, you’ll never get the chance to tell them (either face-to-face or in prayer), “I forgive you.” This holds true especially in your relationship with your spouses or significant others. Don’t be too stubborn and proud to offer them mercy, whether they say they’re sorry or not. If you’re having trouble with that, remember what HE did for you to show you HIS mercy. Maybe then it won’t seem like such a daunting task.
I’ll leave you with this song from Francesca Battistelli. She offers up some pretty sound words about how mercy works…not to mention that it’s a great song :D. Enjoy, and God bless.