This Easter remember that the Cross satisfies Justice, and provides Mercy to all.
This morning on the way to work, I observed four people at four different locations step out onto the street right in front of moving cars. This was within a ten mile drive through the heart of Grand Rapids. “Observed” is way too calm, as my daughter who sat in the passenger seat, would confirm.
Their actions put them in danger, as evidenced by cars braking and swerving to avoid hitting them. However, as I am in the habit of doing, I made certain judgments about the character of these people. Cynicism was at work in my heart. What idiots! Why don’t they watch out for cars? Do they think they own the road? They think they world revolves around them! How could they be so careless!
Then I extrapolated*my assumptions to others. Didn’t their mother teach them how to cross the street? They should have learned how to cross the street in kindergarten!
I could have given them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were tired, maybe they didn’t sleep well last night. Maybe they weren’t paying attention because they had too much on their minds, like losing their job or trying to find daycare at the last minute. Maybe the bus was almost at the bus stop and they were going to miss it if they didn’t take the risk (albeit a dangerous one), to catch the bus so they wouldn’t be late for school. Maybe they don’t care if they live or die.
How often do we exercise our inner cynic and extrapolate motives and character based on observed behavior? Mary made a simple mistake on that letter at work; she must be sloppy. Darlene didn’t make her bed; she must be lazy. Larry’s kid threw a screaming tantrum at the park; he must a terrible parent. Grandma’s dishes aren’t clean; she must not care anymore.
Instead we could exercise our inner hope, our love. Mary was interrupted three times in the middle of typing a rush letter. Darlene got up before her husband and didn’t want to disturb him. Then she got busy and forgot. Larry’s kid has autism and he is doing all he can to get him to the car and to a safe place. Grandma can’t see as well as she used to.
Maybe love is the opposite of cynicism. What kind of assumption would love make? Don’t give up on love. “8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8)
“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7)
Love might pray for the safety of that person who crossed the street dangerously (and the drivers who tried to avoid him). Or at least love could pray after saying, “Oh no! Watch out!”
*Extrapolate To infer or estimate by extending or projecting known information – http://www.wordnik.com/words/extrapolate. Leave their mother out of it.
I love attending wedding showers and baby showers.
Two days ago, I took part in a wedding shower for a young lady who attends our church. It made me think about how much I enjoy wedding showers and baby showers. I like watching the future mom or bride opening the gifts, especially the gift that I brought. I enjoy shopping for the gift. I remember my own wedding shower and baby shower. In our church, giving a shower is one of the women’s ministries. I have been part of putting a couple of them on. I think it is a ministry to young couples starting out.
A cynic may say that mass gift giving events, such as weddings, graduation parties, wedding and baby showers, are an example of rampant consumerism.
When I was younger, I used to go to Tupperware, Stampin’ Up, pampered chef, etc., parties. (I haven’t been to one of them in over 8 years due, in part, to operating the Cleaver College Taxi Service.) They were a kind of social event (with opportunity to buy for yourself).
I would much rather go to a wedding or baby shower and spend the same amount of money. It is a way of sowing kindness into the life of others.
Do mercy and forgiveness have the same meaning? Maybe they are two sides of the same coin?
Matthew West’s song, Forgiveness, has been on my mind lately.
“It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve
Forgiveness.” (from the song above)
Mercy is somehow intertwined with forgiveness.
Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV)
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
How many times should we forgive our brother? 490 is a concrete number, but really the concept is figurative, meaning every time. Not just every time an individual offends us, but every time we think of a particular offense.
For years, every time I thought about the doctor who refused to refer us to early intervention programs for our Erin, fury would rise up within me. I was freshly offended in my heart towards him. It was only after I forgave him in my heart, and continually forgave him every time I thought of that offense, that I was released from the bondage of that grudge.
Some say that forgiveness is predicated on the ability to forget. They can never forget the offense, so they can never forgive the offender. But being able to forgive is not predicated on forgetting. Forgetting is not required, but forgiveness is commanded. We do it by the power that God gives us.
“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:12-13)
Maybe mercy is the description and forgiving is the action.