Mercy is pure mystery. If grace is the place where God’s love and justice meet, then mercy is the medium that transforms our lives into offerings pleasing to the Father. He is the Master Artist, our Father God… and with mercy, He molds and colors outside of all the lines that I’ve drawn to create something beautiful. Something new… something to glorify His name. I marvel at His limitless ability… at His creative scope that is so far greater than ours. He sees more than we see. When the human eye saw a garden lost, He saw a people that would choose to walk with Him. When the human eye saw a brother sold into slavery, He saw a people fed in the time of famine. When the human eye saw a taunting giant and an army running scared, He saw a King who would lead a nation into worship. When the human eye saw judgment falling and cities crumbling, He saw exiles returning with joy. When the human eye saw generations given over to sin, He saw a new covenant and His laws written on their hearts. Yes, our God is the King who steps into the chaos of the world and works it all out, according to His purpose. The bigger story is so far beyond what we can yet see ~ and His mercy is at work, every day anew, to shape and transform these ashes in our lives into a testimony of His power and goodness. Do you marvel at this mystery? The way He stepped into flesh, while we were still in sin, and died for us? Not because we were deserving of a second chance to please Him, but because of His mercy… because of His great love. He looks at each one of us and sees more than what we are in our sin ~ He sees who we are created to be in Him. I am reminded of His mercy in my own life every time I stop and really look at my children, my biggest daily reminders of how He has changed my world for the better. Because there was a time when I looked at myself as a failure. I am sure that this world saw me in the same way ~ as just another statistic, another teenager who ended up pregnant and in a faltering marriage. There was a point when it seemed sure that my brand-new family was going to fall apart. That I’d be alone and struggling. In those moments, I only saw the pain. I only saw the potential for love un-done, hearts broken. But my Father saw more. He saw a family that could be mended. He saw a testimony in progress. He saw hearts that could be molded by mercy into something new. It goes without saying that we have not achieved any level of perfection. We still strive; we still depend on His mercy every single day. We are able to stand together in testimony to His faithfulness and to His mercy because He has taken what was so broken and healed us. This family was redeemed from division and sorrow and we bear witness to His blessings, so undeserved and yet so present ~ in the grins of our baby girl, in the pranks and laughter of our two little boys, in the way we have watched our love flourish in every kind of weather. In the knowledge that God has purposed this family to glorify Him, and His mercy came into our lives and made a way for us to fulfill that calling, in spite of our failures. Yes, it is pure mystery that the Father would send His Son into flesh, the image of Himself, so that His mercy could re-make someone like me. I’m left with life over-flowing with His love and wondering ~ what can I ever offer in return? To the God who gives His all to me, what can I possibly give that would ever be a worthy offering? Micah 6:8 says it plain: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Act justly… love mercy… walk humbly with God… this is the way we should live, this is what He asks of us. I n Matthew 5:7, Jesus reiterates this call to mercy: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy… and so I think again of how mercy comes into play when we are guilty, when we stand in need of forgiveness. I think of how Jesus responds to those hearts that are repentant ~ how He responds to my failures. I have been disciplined, but never degraded. Humbled, but never humiliated. Corrected, but never condemned. When He had every right to reject me, He chose to redeem me.
This is how we know what love is, that Jesus laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brother. (1 John 3:16)
Even when they’ve hurt us? Even when they’re wrong? In my moments of anger, I’ve thought about how my indignation was justified. Because that person? They did something wrong. They hurt me. So I’m supposed to forgive, even when they’re not sorry? The reminder has come quick. While I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me. (Romans 5:8) Yes. Forgive. As He forgave us, we must forgive others. As He loves us, we must love.
No, it isn’t always easy. In our human strength, sometimes the act of forgiveness is the hardest thing we may ever face. But we have to remember that the price has already been paid for this pain. Jesus knew the cost and He bore it so that we wouldn’t have to ~ and so it is in His strength that we forgive. It is by His mercy that we can show mercy. To those who have not chosen to surrender their lives to Christ, the love that you show (illogical, mysterious love!) is a witness to the love of the Father. Remember the adulteress who found herself given another chance… the prodigal welcomed home… Jesus came to fulfill the law by His love, in His mercy. H e came to save the world, not to condemn it. We love because He first loved us! (1 John 4:19)
And if it is someone in the family of God who has hurt you ~ I know that this is a particularly rough-edged pain. I truly believe that it is a pet scheme of the enemy to create division in the church. If the family of God is divided, the light we are to shine so brightly as a witness of His love fades. If the family of God uses their words and actions to bring harm to their brothers and sisters, then the focus turns to those conflicts instead of to fulfilling the commission Jesus gave to us. So Satan is pleased that the gospel isn’t shared. He is pleased that gossip, slander, and strife replace encouragement, helping hands, and love.
How do we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to defeat this scheme? We offer mercy. We forgive through the power of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus commanded us to do time and again throughout His teachings. We build others up with our testimony and edifying words. We dwell in His love so that we can love as He loves… humbling ourselves so that the Father will be glorified. Jesus knew these times would come ~ which is why He gave us instructions on how to handle wrong-doing among believers (see Matthew 18:15). But throughout it all, we must remember the transformation mercy has made in our own lives… and know that same mercy can breathe new life into any situation.
Regardless of someone else’s response, we must do our part to follow our Savior’s example ~ and He will heal our hearts. He will bind our wounds. He will give us the courage and strength to continue putting our all into His work… we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18) Jesus prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one… and this unity will only come about if we surrender ourselves to mercy.
We must pray for specific discernment in conflict. Sometimes we must use wisdom when it comes to certain problem-situations. Jesus spoke to the disciples and told them that if His truth was rejected, they should leave that place and ‘shake the dust off their feet’. If you find yourself in a situation where actions and words are clearly rejecting Jesus Christ, this call to mercy does not mean allowing truth to be compromised. However, we must be so careful ~ because we must bear witness to the Spirit of Christ while knowing that we cannot judge another man’s heart. But if the fruit of that man does not witness to the life and words of Jesus, you can lovingly, mercifully walk away from that conflict. We must stand up for what is right with actions that are Christ-like.
And in all times, we must continue to walk humbly and with forgiving hearts. We must live justly and love mercy… and to love mercy is to be like Jesus, to love as He loves us and to lose our lives for His sake. (John 13:34,Matthew 10:38) In the midst of the mystery, in the times of suffering and in the times of joy, we know that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion. (Philippians 1:6) I’ll share in Paul’s prayer… that our love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ ~ to the glory and praise of God! (Phil. 1:9-11)