Posted on July 18, 2015
Blessed : When humility leads you to mercy (A series on the Beatitudes)
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7
Mercy = Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Mercy this week. I’ve been thinking about Forgiveness and how Mercy and Forgiveness are related. These words, they tend to be thrown around the Christian community like they are easily given. They are not, because in order to extend Mercy or Forgiveness, you have to be humble, and eating humble pie is not exactly what most of us are good at. Well, I should only speak for myself, but maybe you find it difficult too.
From the beginning of mankind, the struggle to want to be better than the next guy has been the achilles heel of the human race. It started with Adam and Eve being convinced by the serpent that they would be like God if they ate the forbidden fruit. Then Cain killed Abel out of jealousy over the fruits of their labor. Sarah gave up on God’s promise and encouraged her husband to have a son by Hagar. When Ishmael was born, Sarah despised Hagar and Ishmael because she couldn’t have what Hagar had. The stories, hundreds repeated throughout scripture. It’s our human nature. It’s ugly and sinful and something we will never rid ourselves of.
So if that’s the case, that we have to be humble to extend mercy, does that make God humble? Does that sound impossible to you?
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8
Jesus was God in human form. He was sinless. He had every right to be right, every right to be proud, every right to be respected. Instead of entitlement, he chose humility. He was mocked, rejected, disrespected, stripped of his dignity, beaten, tortured and killed. And yet, in the midst of that he said,
“Father forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
How? How could he do that?
I am ashamed of myself when I look at His example. I fly off the handle because someone has committed some injustice against me like blocking the aisle at the grocery store. I demand my way because I know I’m right and someone else is wrong. I feel entitled to my opinions and fume when someone disagrees. But it’s my human nature. I’m normal. No excuses, just the real, every day part of being a human being.
But what do I do with this Mercy and Forgiveness thing? Richard Rohr, in his book Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount says this, “Non-forgiveness is a form of power over another person, a way to manipulate, shame, control and diminish another. God in Jesus refuses all such power.” And there it is, the nugget of truth that exposes what lies underneath. I don’t extend Forgiveness because to do so would mean I have to relinquish my power over someone else. I would have to treat them as if they were better than me. I would have to be humble.
But what if I AM right? What if I’m entitled to feel or be or act this way? What if they are wrong? What if they hurt me? What if…? Jesus says, “Forgive and you’ll have Forgiveness extended to you.” The beauty, as Richard Rohr says, is that “A lifetime of received forgiveness allows you to become mercy.” To let go of power over others means that we finally accept that we have no power over ourselves. We are completely unworthy of the Mercy Christ gives to us. We cannot and will not ever earn it or deserve it. He gives it willingly with no expectation of it’s return. He doesn’t hold out claims against us and threaten to withdraw his love if we don’t do this or that. There is no “tit for tat” with God. Neither should there be with us.
I don’t know about you, but that is a really big challenge for me. There are things people have done in the past week, the past month, the past years, that I am still holding on to because I. Was. Right. I need to let it go.
Will you join me in letting it go? Will you, along with me, take a step this week to look past an injustice and choose humble Forgiveness instead?
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