There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you
have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.
–James 2:13, NLT

I don’t know about you, but I don’t understand mercy and forgiveness. Last night was actually the first time I realized this, though. I confess that one reason I don’t understand them is because they have never really been anything more to me than flimsy terms repeated over and over again in Scripture. Sure, they are everywhere, but I thought that meant they were just naturally in me too–not!

Maybe it’s because I’ve never faced in a straightforward manner the wrongs of others committed against me; never faced them with the intention of forgiving and extending mercy to cover them. I’ve ranted and raved my fair share (ask my mother and she would say it has been to the point of excess), but sorting through the pain like this has done nothing to redeem the situation–only to discover where I stand, how I feel, in what ways I am justified.

I have wanted to make of each painful situation something else. Something that I might find more easy to swallow–to live with if need be (in the event that the person hurting me would choose not to notice what they were doing to me and apologize).

I have strained for understanding, grasped for empathy and held out for change. But, until now I have had no answer for dealing with things as they are at this very moment, for the coldness of the truth. Vacillating between what I know to be true of the situation the two of us are contributing to and searching for the key to what the other person believes about it has not served us as much as I had hoped it might.

I do not have to make this all right–making sure that I bridge the chasm of misunderstanding. I do not need to make a project out of acquitting she who has caused me grief, I can let God settle our differences, the pain that lingers between us: I will forgive.

I will make no excuses for her, and thus an indirect excuse for myself. I do not need to uncover secrets and air perspectives. I need only adopt the diagnosis Christ offers me: I have been hurt by the sin of another. And before I run ahead and try to learn my lesson and seek God to reveal my sin in this situation, stopping, I will forgive.

Rather than trying to amend the situation–to somehow lift us both beyond our propensities to sin–I will recognize that this is not the first offense, neither will it be the last. I do not have the option of eliminating sin or the grief it causes me. I will accept my need for a Savior, and I will forgive.

Because paradise will not be sneaking up on me tomorrow; because I will not be able to escape both the need for pardon and the need to give it; because God chose to redeem each of us sinners by a way that offers us none of the control I think is essential for peace-of-mind and deliverance-from-everything-I-don’t-want-to-face, I will not wait another minute, I will forgive.

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