Earlier this week I was talking with a woman from our church who has recently gone through a very difficult break up with her boyfriend. As she talked about what had happened, she said, “I know I’m supposed to forgive - and I will - eventually. But first I’m going to make him pay!”
It was a natural reaction, as she had been not only emotionally hurt, but physically abused as well. I know from my own experience that when we’re hurt, a natural response is to want to hurt the other person back. And we can even make the mental decision to forgive them, but still want to see them suffer a bit first. But what I’ve also learned from my own experience is that we can’t respond that way. We can't be people who seek revenge. Instead, we need to be merciful.
The dictionary defines "mercy" as “the discretionary power to pardon someone who deserves punishment.” With that definition in mind, its easy to see why it's hard to be merciful. But the other thing it's easy to see is that mercy is something we all need, because we all stumble and fall and require help getting back on track. So we need to be willing to offer exactly what we so often need - mercy. Colossians 3:13 puts it like this: “You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” The mercy that God shows us should be our motivation for showing mercy to others.
So, whenever we’re hurt by someone, we have a choice to make: will we use our energy and emotions for retaliation? Or will we us them for resolution? We can’t do both. So today, let’s choose what God calls us to do - let’s choose to be people of mercy. Let’s choose to extend forgiveness, without any requirement for “payment due”. In other words, let’s be merciful to others exactly how God is merciful to us.