March 27 I Friday
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” —1 John 4:11-12
All relationships need the gentleness of a merciful disposition. In our family life, we need to be merciful: wives to their husbands, husbands to their wives and parents to their children. The late Ruth Graham once said, “A marriage is made up of two good forgivers.” If we are not a good forgiver, we are probably having a strained marriage because it is in our marriages, of all places, that we walk humbly with each other in forgiveness and mercy.
This disposition of mercy is not a checklist that we follow through; it is a spirit—an attitude of heart—and a discipline. The very practical expression of mercy is in the discipline of forgiveness. Jesus tells us, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
Before we come to worship God, we had better engage with our brother. If our relationship is not right with our brother, it will impact and impede on our relationship with God. This is where being merciful becomes a discipline because it is not just a nice feeling about other people or a generous feeling towards others but a discipline of keeping our relationship right.
How do we do that? Jesus tells us, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (Luke 17:3-4). We are to go to our brother and expose the issue just between us. If he repents it has been dealt with. The Greek word for “repent” is metanoeo–, which literally means “to change the mind.” When we go talk to him about the issue and he changes his mind, forgive him. But being merciful is not just glossing over the problems and hoping it will go away by saying, “Oh, I will just forgive him anyways.” If there is no repentance—no change of mind—in the forgiveness process, it is just papering over the cracks and we can be sure the problems will erupt again and keep coming back.
We, therefore, need to be forgiving, as our Heavenly Father is forgiving, otherwise we can get all churned up inside. As we reflect on relationships in our life, who do we need to forgive and whom do we need to seek forgiveness from?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I repent of my sinfulness. Have mercy upon me. Give me the discipline to forgive others as You have forgiven me. Thank You, Lord.