a lesson in mercy

I was thinking today about Corrie Ten Boom, the Holocaust survivor. I used a story about her in a message that I preached recently. It was a story she told about returning to Germany for a speaking arrangement. After the speech was done she was approached by a man. To her horror she recognized him as one of the guards from Ravensbrück  concentration camp. According to Corrie this man approached her and complemented her speech. The speech she had given was about God’s mercy.

The man then confessed to her that he was a former guard from Ravensbrück , but that he had been converted to Christianity. He told her that he knew that God had forgiven him. He then stuck out his hand and asked this question:

“Fraulein , can you forgive me?”

All she could think abou.t was her sister Betsie who died a slow painful death in that place. But she then remembered Jesus words:

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15 NIV

She said a quick prayer telling God she could put out her hand but He was going to have to supply the feeling. As soon as she clasped his hand she felt a warm tingling start in her shoulder that quickly went down to their handshake. She burst into tears and forgave him with all her heart.

That’s a really great story, but it’s what she said afterwards that has really got me thinking. She says she still struggled to forgive as time went on. She learned that good feelings and behavior can’t be stored up, but only drawn fresh from God each day.

That is such a great lesson. I find myself so often feeling discouraged by my lack of the ability to remain in a state of forgiveness. Then I beat myself for backsliding into unforgiveness. What Corrie’s story helped me realize is that’s ok. I don’t have to remain in that state because I can draw on God’s mercies every day. That’s why they are there. God has need to be merciful to Himself. The new daily mercies are there for me and for you.

Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Lamentations 3:23 NLT

Father God you are my Lord and God. I worship you alone. Forgive me the times I put things between You and me. I know that you love me to much to leave me the way I am. Thank you for giving fresh mercies everyday. Remind me of this continually so I can draw on You when I need to forgive, when I need to show mercy. Send to me a revival of mercies to give to all those around me. In Jesus name Amen.

Be the bigger person

If God were easy to follow everybody would be doing it. If God always made you comfortable, if there were never any trials in your life because Of some kind of supernatural intervention there would not be any need for faith. I think that I like that He lets us face difficulty, that our decisions matter and we are made to face the consequences of the decisions that we make both the good and the bad.

It seems to me that today many people think that it is actually good to let themselves off the hook for the things that they do or think. I hear people say things like all ideas are good or that all lifestyle choices are equal. This seems absurd to me. One person says that it is society’s responsibility to take care of everybody and another says that each person is responsible for his own wellbeing. Those are quite opposite and can’t both be true. I know that is a extreme example but it makes the point.

This kind of thing gets truly evil when people think that they ought to be able to get away with stuff but you over there ought to be punished for the same thing. The more polarized we get the more that this mindset seems to rear it’s ugly head.

I know I’m being a little vague here by not pointing out some real world examples but I really want to stay a bit neutral while I think this through. I know that the us and them mentality has always been around I know that. I also know that long ago people were deeply divided by a lot of things that led to very extreme behavior but I thought that perhaps we had outgrown some of the really terrible ideas that had ruled interaction between people. I thought we had learned to be at least civil with each other, that we could share problems and solutions and be able to come to some kind of consensus. But Solomon was right. There really is nothing new under the sun.

So now I need to look into my own life to see if there is any of that in me. I don’t want to be the man that is shouting down somebody for what they did while excusing myself for my own misdeeds. I want to be the man that can listen respectfully to someone that I may disagree with and be able to have a reasonable discussion about it. I don’t want to be the man that looks past someone’s problems because I happen to agree with some of his or her thoughts or ideas. I want to be the man that is able to discern truth but not be filled with hate. I want to be the man that can be persuaded when I am wrong to see the error and make the appropriate change. I want to be the man that will gently but firmly hold fast to those things that I am confident are the truth. I want to be the man that is persuasive not belligerent. Mostly I want to be the man that loving and merciful to those around me wether I agree with them or not.

Lest I am misunderstood let me state that I will not tolerate evil. I do believe that there is real evil in the world and it must be opposed. But I must not allow myself to be evil to oppose it. Opposition must still come from a place of love and yes even mercy.

It is my prayer that after you read this you will join me in this self examination to find the condition of your heart and then follow me and make the commitment to love even those that you find youself opposing.