We have been talking about Mercy and Grace.
Mercy is not giving someone something they deserve. In other words, not punishing someone when they have done something wrong. Jesus showed us mercy from the Cross when He took our place so that we did not have to die for our sins. We show mercy to others when we do not retaliate when they attack us - we turn the other cheek.
Grace is the opposite side of this - it is giving someone something that they do not deserve - such as when a teacher gives extra credit to help you raise your grade. Jesus showed us grace from the cross when He took our sins and gave us new life. We show grace when we give someone the benefit of the doubt after they have done something to hurt us - when we choose to think that the person is good, but in a bad state of mind and that they did not mean to hurt you. So you let the issue pass by.
These two concepts are not easy - and they are not meant to let people walk all over you. They are meant to promote peace. If a person continues to hurt you after you have given them grace and mercy, then something is wrong. They are not learning peace. It is very likely that you are enabling their sin - and that what you thought was mercy and grace was not the mercy and grace they needed, so you look for a different path - sometimes they need a little ‘tough love’ such as showing grace in NOT giving someone money to continue a drug habit.
These two concepts are also cornerstones to one of the most important principles of God’s plan - Forgiveness.
Forgiveness is letting go of those things that keep your arrow from hitting the mark. It is more than just telling someone you forgive them - it is letting go of the reason you needed to forgive them.
I once read the story of two monks that went for a walk outside their monastery. As they traveled, they came to a river in which a woman was standing next to the water. She was trying to figure out how to cross without getting wet. The older monk offered her assistance and carried her safely and dryly across the water. On the other side, he sat her down and she went on her way. For the rest of the walk, the younger monk was angry and would not talk to the older monk. When they arrived back at the monastery, the older monk stopped the younger and asked him what his problem was. The younger monk shouted, “We are monks and we are not allowed to touch women. Yet, you picked up that woman and carried her!!! You broke our laws!!!!” The older monk laughed and said, “Oh, I see the problem. I put the woman down back at the river, but you are still carrying her.”
It is so easy to become overwhelmed with all the things we carry that we don’t need to. We hold onto the hurts and guilt that amass over our lives. We must put them down.
In John 4, Jesus meets a woman at a well. Through their conversation we learn that she has lived a very broken life - having been with many different men - and that she was living a life of shame (which is why she was at the well in the heat of the day instead of the cool of the morning when the other women arrive). She was hiding because of her shame. Jesus not only points out to her that he knows every part of her brokenness - but that he loves her just the same. When she understands she is acceptable to God - even after all her mistakes and pain - she lets go of all the fear and guilt and runs to the rest of the town to tell them that she was free and that they can be free also.
Brennan Manning (one of my personal heroes) once said that when we arrive in heaven, God will not ask us how many times we went to church or how many Bible verses we memorized. He will ask us one question and one question only - “Did you Believe me when I said that I loved you?” The problem with so many of us is that we will have to say “no” because we have been holding too tight to our shame, guilt, pains, and baggage. We don’t believe we are worth God’s love, so we drown in our own human failings. And Jesus is patiently saying “Let it Go. Give it to me. Be forgiven because I love you.”
This is discipleship.