To forgive or not to forgive… that is the question…
Justice and mercy… what is the difference? Justice is about fair treatment of right and wrong. The wrong should be punished. The wronged should be recompensed. Mercy, on the other hand, is about compassion and kindness. The wronged forgives the wrong.
God’s justice and mercy are seemingly incompatible because his justice demands that he punished the sinner while in his mercy, he forgives and withholds punishment from the sinner.
Let me share my story on forgiveness – a reflection about God’s mercy.
Mercy is God’s character often coupled with grace… sadly, more as grace and mercy rather than mercy and grace.
Recently, someone I love hurt me that I struggled to let go even as I told myself and showed with my actions that I have forgiven. At the heart of it, I feel that ‘sorry, I did not mean it’ is not enough to ‘recompense’ my hurt and ‘does not deserve’ my forgiveness.
God’s Word is always timely. In my daily reading, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 moved me once more.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[b] to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[c] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him[e] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
What does it mean to boast in the Lord? Boasting in v. 31 refers to Jeremiah 9:23-24.
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
In 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul wrote:
12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Paul ‘boasts’ of being a blasphemer, persecutor and opponent, who received MERCY because of his ignorance (v.13) and because of Christ’s perfect patience (v. 16). In between these extremes lie a TRUSTworthy saying: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners including Paul, who ranked first (v. 15).
Mercy is something withheld which I deserve. I deserve to die for my sin. Yet Jesus died in my place. That is mercy… and also grace. Grace is something given which I do not deserve. Jesus, the Son of God came down to save me, a sinner. Amazing grace!
So, let me not boast of my wisdom, strength and wealth. Let me boast that I know and understand the Lord who practices steadfast love (hesed in Hebrew = mercy, compassion, loving-kindness)… and He takes delight (is pleased) in kindness (Jer. 9:23-24 ESV).
Abounding in steadfast love is how God described Himself when He granted Moses’ prayer to see His face. (Exodus 34:6)
Today, I re-discovered the reason why Jesus taught his disciples to pray: ‘and forgive us (me my) our debts, as we (I) also HAVE forgiven our (my) debtors.’ This is my conversion story… which I need to keep living..
Praise be the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, to the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim. 1:17)
The eternal God is abounding in steadfast love (mercy), slow to anger waiting for all sinners to turn to Him.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal Life. John 3:16