Sitting in a heated meeting listening to the words of my close friend cut my soul as a knife left me feeling that sticks and stones may break my bones, but, oh, how words hurt so much more! Sobbing in my seat, unable to speak, my heart grew angry and callous. With every fiber in me, I wanted to nurse my bitterness and let it grow into a monster. Then the Holy Spirit quickened me and stopped me from self-destruction.
While the bickering festered in the room, the Spirit brought to my memory all the good this person had done for me earlier in my life. I chose to recount and praise God for each one. Naming each generous act in my head, thanking God for the life of this person, my heart began to soften, and forgiveness bubbled up.
I asked God to only let me think on this person’s goodness. When the vengeance of his current acts stirred in my thoughts, I chose to replace them with a kind act this man demonstrated toward me in the past. At the end of this meeting, and with sincerity, I hugged that person, told him I was sorry we were at odds; I reminded him of all the good he had done in my life and that I was grateful for each one.
For me, the walls of mistrust came down; in seconds, the temperature of my heart went from a broiler to a cooler. Reconciliation was making its way into this relationship. Over the coming months, we reconciled, and God revealed His glory to both of us. I will never forget that experience! It has taught me how to forgive the next person in my life who hurts me.
What is the difference between grace and mercy?
Over the years, I have questioned the difference between grace and mercy. I used to think they were the same. However, God differentiates them in His word. In R. T. Kendall’s book, Total Forgiveness, he gives us a definition:
“Grace is getting what we don’t deserve (favor), and mercy is not getting what we do deserve (justice).”
When we forgive someone who has hurt us, we give favor and withhold justice at the same time. I believe this union is a sweet marriage of the two; for when we practice both for the person we forgive, we demonstrate the total purity of God’s image.
Giving grace and mercy does not mean the person in the wrong won’t receive their proper chastisement. It just won’t come from us. Left alone, we are frail emotional humans who do not handle wrath wisely.
Wrath in the hands of God provides a chance for salvation if one should repent. But wrath in the hands of man leaves no opportunity for change; it only makes room for a satisfying self-righteous punishment.
Gratefully, we are not left alone to our human weakness when it comes to the gift of favor and withholding of justice. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can responsibly reflect His godliness toward others.
We do our souls good when we submit to giving grace and withholding mercy. (Kendall) It is a dark place to feed our anger and meditate on the justification of our wrath.
What was Jesus’ secret?
I am so thankful that while we were yet unreconcilable to God, Jesus chose to die for us anyway. His choice to show His grace and mercy toward us was not conditional upon us believing or receiving. He took the just due upon Himself so that we could experience forgiveness of sins deep down in our souls, “If we should confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead [then] we will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 emphasis added).
While hanging on the cross and before He committed His Spirit to the Father, Jesus granted favor and withheld justice toward us by praying, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus fulfilled the punishment for sin because His confidence was in the Father not in man’s admittance to their wrongful ways. Jesus trusted that God’s plan was right. His grace was the way to holiness. His mercy was an open door for all who call on His name to receive salvation.
Jesus looked up not out.
We must do the same.
Let’s consider this visual. Imagine looking in the eyes of the person who has hurt you, then suddenly up rises behind him or her the cross of Jesus reminding you that He died a horrible death for that person. Just like He did for you. We can’t help but wonder what holds us back if nothing stopped Jesus.
Whether you find yourself in conflict with your spouse, child, friend, boss, or whomever, be like Jesus; put your confidence in God, not the offender’s response to your pain.
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