I have a habit of starting a book before I’ve finished reading my most current selection, leaving me to read multiple books at one time. I’m not exactly sure why I do that; it’s not that I get bored, it’s just what I do and have always done. I do admit that sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming to think of all of my unfinished ‘projects’, but nonetheless, I still have this way about me. I have found myself in the middle of 3 or more books before, and notice a new book on the market that looks really good, and I think to myself “I HAVE to have that book!” Do I feel like I’m gonna ‘miss the boat’ on something good if I don’t get it right away? Truthfully, sometimes I do feel that way. Maybe I have a little attention deficit disorder, I don’t really know, but I DO know this: #1) I just love books, specifically those that help nurture and deepen my relationship with Christ, and #2) My time to read is very limited. These both are definitely contributing factors to this little habit of mine. So, I would say it’s just a good thing I haven’t ordered any new books in over a year!
This morning I picked up a reading I’d put down for a while called ‘Momentum’ by Colin Smith. I reread the last chapter I’d already completed in order to ‘get back in the swing of things’ and help reacquaint myself with that chapter so I can continue forward with ‘momentum’. (Get it? ha)
My reading today dealt with mercy and forgiveness with the scripture reading from Ephesians 4:30-32.
The title of this chapter is ‘I Care About Others: The Joy of Complete Forgiveness’.
You know, I’ve never thought of myself as one who is not willing to forgive, but introspection has found me guilty. It usually does, every time. It’s not that I hold on to bitterness, per say, but rather hold on to the hurt. Holding on to either one is dangerous, for both represent unforgiveness.
One thing about this book is that it is chock-full of richness, so much so that I usually read fractions of a chapter at a time, highlighting those areas that resonate with me and writing them in my journal along with my thoughts and revelations. Since there is no way I can convey all the goodness from this chapter in one sitting, the following are just mere fractionated adaptations of the gleanings I took from today’s reading:
Most people want to forgive, but some don’t know how to get there. If a great wrong has been done to you, you may feel that forgiveness is impossible. However desirable forgiveness might be, it towers over you like a mountain that you cannot climb. In this chapter, we will explore how you can pursue mercy and forgiveness. These twin virtues belong together, and it is important to understand the relationship between them:
“Mercy is broader than forgiveness, but forgiveness goes further than mercy.”
The whole point of the Christian life is that the character of Jesus is reproduced in the lives of His people, and that means a community of brothers and sisters who have compassionate hearts and act for the good of others. This is central to our calling. What God requires of us is “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8). That is why, to some leaders who misunderstood what God requires of us, Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice'” (Matthew 9:13).
Wow. This really spoke to me.
When I think of the Christian life, I automatically think ‘sacrifice’:
– dying to self
– sacrificing for others
– sacrificing your time
– sacrificing everything you know (comfort, money, possessions, etc.) for the good of the Kingdom
Although sacrifice and dying to self IS a part of the Christian life, a very important part, mercy is greater.
I’ve never concentrated on these 6 words from Matthew before today: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”. And just think about it…..if you master mercy in your life, then sacrifice comes easy.
Smith goes on to give us opportunities where mercy can be shown in our lives:
- When you cross paths with someone who has a material need (i.e. The Good Samaritan)
- When you encounter a fellow Christian who is struggling in his or her walk with God. (“When a brother or sister in Christ is plagued with unanswered questions, their greatest need is the kindness and compassion of a believing friend who will come alongside and strengthen them in their faith… Your usefulness to Christ will increase as you become more tender toward others and sensitive to the needs they bear.”)
- When someone fails in a way that might bring them shame and embarrassment. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8), and a merciful person will look for ways to spare the blushes of the one who has failed.
- When we encounter gossip. (“A merciful person will close his or her ears to anything that would diminish their view of someone else…”)
- Have reasonable expectations. (“Always remember that if you were carrying your brother’s burden or facing your sister’s temptation, you might struggle and fail more than they do.”)
- When someone hurts or wrongs you. (If you have been wounded by another person, don’t be surprised if, at some point, God puts you in a position where you have the opportunity to pay them back. If that happens, what you do at that moment will reveal a great deal to you.”)
- Presenting the gospel to someone who is not yet a believer in Christ.
This next segment was the most resonating to me:
Imagine standing next to a hurdle on a race track. You are right up against it, and you can’t jump over it from a standing position. You have to back up and take a run at the hurdle.
Think about this picture in relation to your spiritual life. It is easy to get focused on one sin or problem that you want to overcome. ‘How do I get over my fear? How can I prevail over this lust, etc.?’ There you are, standing right next to the hurdle, and you can’t move forward from that position. You have to begin further back. You have to take a run at it and get some momentum.
I’ve found that in trying to help a person who is struggling with one particular battle, it is important to look not only at the problem but also at their general spiritual health. Is this person regularly engaged in worship? Do they pray? Is there a pattern of regularly feeding on the Word of God? Is this person part of a small group where they are able to walk with and encourage others? Cultivating your general spiritual health will enable you to take a run at the hurdle and to overcome the particular battle that has become so troublesome for you.
Six strides that will get you to forgiveness are presented in these verses:
- Remember that the Holy Spirit lives in you
- Don’t dwell on the injury (My personal struggle)
- Don’t fight and quarrel
- Have compassion toward the one who has hurt you
- Realize that you will need the forgiveness of others (Absolutely! This is a GREAT reminder!)
- Savor your forgiveness in Christ
Even when a person has hurt you badly, and is completely unaware of what he or she has done, if you practice these six strides, you will be ready at any moment to forgive. Forgiveness will be in your heart and you will be ready to place it in the hands of the one who has wronged you, whenever he or she is ready to receive the gift.
When hurtful times happen in my life, I pray my focus not be on the injury but rather on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent. May I be one who has the utmost of integrity and compassion for others, practicing mercy and forgiveness at all times, and may I be known for my gentleness. Most of all, may the love of Christ be shown in all ways and in all things.