If someone wrongs you, the Bible clearly tells us: show mercy to them. Last week, during mid-week worship, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer. Even though we used the version that says “forgive us our debts..” I thought in my head of the word “trespasses.” A person in my life recently has “trespassed” in many ways–violating boundaries, treating me with utter disrespect. I am called, by Jesus, to forgive. “Forgive us our trespasses,” Jesus said, “As we forgive those who trespass against us.” And I have forgiven them. I will show mercy to this person by not sharing the details, but I’ve been pondering this–what does it really mean to forgive? How far does mercy have to travel?
In my book Deeper into the Word, I write this: “mercy depends on position. Say I have a friend who is in debt. I can have great compassion, even to the point of trying to help her pay off the debt. However, if she owes someone else the money, I cannot cancel her debt. Mercy is dependent in part upon position.”
In the book, I point out that mercy is not getting what you deserve, being let off the hook. This person who has wronged me: I have shown them mercy. I have not retaliated, not hated. Refrained from outing them on my blog. 🙂
But grace–grace is different. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. It’s being given life when you deserve death. If I had the strength to show this person grace, I would go do something nice for them. Which I thought about doing, and realized, I am in need of grace, because I can’t bring myself to go that far–to go do something nice for that person. I realized if I did it, it would be so I could brag about it. So the truth is, I’m not ready to do something nice for them, to extend myself on their behalf. Just forgiving them is work enough for now.
When we hold on to bitterness, it hurts us more than it hurts the person we don’t forgive. And yet, there’s a difference between forgiveness (letting go) and reconciliation (grabbing hold). Sometimes, I think, we can forgive and yet maintain firm boundaries that require us to keep our distance. I’d love to hear your thoughts about mercy, grace and forgiveness….
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