We are so blessed that our heavenly Father doesn’t withhold mercy from us. We don’t deserve it, and yet He willingly gives it to us according to His abundance. As imitators of God, we are to be as merciful to others as the Lord has been to us. As sinners, we had no right to expect that God would cover us with His grace, mercy and righteousness “which He freely bestowed on us” (Eph. 1:6). But He gave it as a gift, not because we deserved it, but because He loves us. “For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)
Whenever we behave badly, we want others to forgive us and let it go. In this world where people are so easily offended (which is a choice), there is a lot more finger-pointing, blaming and condemning of others’ actions going on than there is forgiveness. Scripture tells us that we don’t have a right to have an unforgiving nature as a believer. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:14-15)
We have the choice to take those offended feelings and take them captive (2 Cor. 10:5). God will forgive us in the same way He asks us to forgive others: by restoring fellowship with us. The Lord will forgive us from the earthly consequences of our sins provided we are willing to show forgiveness to others. If we desire the Lord to forgive us of our daily missteps and to withhold His discipline, we must be prepared to extend our forgiveness to others for their missteps against us. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)
It all boils down to what we learned as children: “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31) When Jesus offered His words about forgiveness in Luke 6, He was helping us understand the difference between people of grace and people without grace. Those who know His forgiveness are to be strikingly unlike unbelievers. We must do what others think impossible: Forgive and love our enemies. That is imitating Christ who asked the Father to forgive those who nailed Him to the cross. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col 3:12-13)
We’ve been talking about walking in love, as Children of the Light, and in wisdom. We are called to love others as ourselves. Yes, there are times in each of our lives that we “beat ourselves up” for something we’ve said, thought or did. I’ve done it, especially when I lived from my position in shame. However, even when I felt the worst about myself, pride was never far away. Even when I was treated poorly, I became easily offended by what others said, did, didn’t say, didn’t do…. You know that list could go on forever. But we have no rights to be offended or to be unforgiving. “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6: 7-28, 32)
Consider what it is that was said or done that hurt you: ask the Holy Spirit if there is something in your life He is trying to show you for which you need to repent. I have found that when I have the biggest charge about someone else’s behavior, it’s as if I’m looking into a mirror of my own behavior that I don’t like. It may be time to take this in prayer and ask the Lord if there’s something in your own life that you need to “take off” in order to walk in love. We just may need more mercy than the person who has offended us! “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12-13)
Our behavior to others is to be like that of Christ, and for the Lord’s glory. “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” (2 Tim. 2:24) Being puffed up with anger is a choice to be offended by another, and it isn’t walking in love. It is prideful and does us harm in our relationships with others and with the Lord. “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” (Prov. 11:17) What do you need to let go of today?