Tag Archives: mercy

Choosing against revenge

I love this analogy: holding a grudge is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Typically we say this because a grudge continues to eat away at us and it doesn’t do anything to the other person. So we are the only ones who suffer, all because we cannot let go of the grudge. But what about if you had a chance to “repay” the person who has wronged you? What if you could exact your “justice” on him or her? Should you do it? Scripturally speaking, the answer is and always has been, “No.” 

As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day.  – 1 Samuel 25:16-19, ESV

If any man deserved the right to take out his revenge on another, it would have been David on Saul. Saul tried to kill David multiple times. Saul even went after his own son, Jonathan, because Saul felt Jonathan was choosing David over him. Saul made David’s life miserable, forcing him into a life on the run: a life of exile filled with hardship. David knew that if Saul ever found himself in a position to do so, Saul would kill David. Yet David not only didn’t seek revenge, but in the two occasions when David could have taken Saul’s life, David chose not to do so. 

This passage is from the first chance which David had. So good was the opportunity that David was able to cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. He certainly could have killed Saul. He didn’t, however. Appearing to Saul, David showed him the corner of the robe. Saul realized the implications of that piece of cloth, which led him to the confession above. 

Saul called David more righteous. Saul pointed out that David repaid Saul with good, even when Saul only dealt evil towards David. Saul also pointed to the fact that David let his enemy go and because of this Saul asked that The Lord repay David for the good act. One response to this passage is that  Saul’s words are that of a normal man’s. Furthermore, he didn’t have the direction of the Holy Spirit any longer when he spoke them. Therefore, they don’t tell us how we should act. However, when we compare Saul’s words with commands and examples throughout Scripture with regards to revenge, we see they match. Quite simply, God has asked us not to pursue revenge, even when the opportunity is at hand. 

Consider Gethsemane. Jesus’ dilemma was life or death. That mob was there to take Him away and ultimately kill Him. He knew that. Those same religious leaders who sent the mob had been hounding Jesus His whole ministry. They had plotted to kill Him almost from the very beginning. He had every right to call down the legions of angels and deal with the mob. Yet He didn’t. The price for revenge was too great. He knew that. So no call was made. Jesus went to the Cross so we might have our sins paid for by Him and thus forgiven.

Speaking of price, we don’t know what the true price of a given act of revenge will be. We don’t have the omniscience of God. We don’t have His wisdom. We can’t exact perfect justice. Therefore, the idea that we can do revenge “right” is absurd. Mercy, now that’s something we can get right. Forgiveness, yes, we can do that. After all, we have received both from our Savior, Jesus. Those acts don’t require complete knowledge or wisdom. Those acts are what we are called to do. 

If we respond accordingly, we will find favor with God. Saul’s words will ring true in our own lives. God will bless us for the good we have demonstrated. We should always choose to do good, even if a person has done evil to us. If there is a punishment to be delivered, leave it in God’s hands. Even if the opportunity presents itself, walk away from revenge and instead walk in righteousness.


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Rich in Mercy

I can remember as a child wishing for unlimited candy, unlimited toys, and even unlimited sunlight. All three are too much, even the unlimited sunlight. The reason I wanted the latter is because I would want to stay outside to play as much as possible. Generally, as long as their was sunlight, that was okay. Of course, we all need downtime. So even that third one isn’t such a good thing. Is there anything, in unlimited portion, that is?

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, – Ephesians 2:4, ESV

That word “rich” isn’t enough. When I think of rich, I might think of icing on a cake. However, that’s not unlimited. The word we translate rich has the meaning of without measure or unlimited and we should probably read that verse as, “But God, being unlimited in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us.” It’s a subtle but powerful difference.

Our mercy is often limited. We reach the limit of what we’ll tolerate and then there is no more forgiveness, no more understanding, and no more mercy. For some folks and some situations, that limit is quicker reached that others. However, God is not like us. Paul tells us that God is unlimited in His mercy. That mercy comes from the root of His love for us. In other words, he has unabounded mercy towards us because of His great love for us. Think about that for a moment. It should bless you to consider that is how God feels about you.

The fact of the matter is that due to our sin, we need unlimited, unabounded mercy. So, yes, there is something in unlimited portion that is good for us: God’s mercy. Anything less isn’t enough. Consider that when we were in sin we were His enemies. We were an abomination in His sight. We had wronged Him far worse than anyone has ever wronged us. Yet, because of His great love He extended unlimited mercy towards us. As a result, He could act on our behalf though we were His enemies. He could overcome our sinfulness and provide a way for which we could be redeemed and be blameless in His sight. All of this required unlimited mercy. That’s what God delivered.

As you begin this week, meditate on the fact that our Lord is unlimited in mercy towards you. Does that change your perspective? I hope it does. I hope it encourages you to not only accept God’s mercy and overcome some obstacles, but also to extend your own mercy. Act with mercy towards who may anger you, who may insult you, who may hurt you. Grant mercy to those who have done such things in the past. Let us attempt to be as rich in mercy towards others as God is towards us!


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He Provides, Even When We Get It Wrong

So often we only get when we do things right. This is often true for things that we need and the littlest thing can keep us from getting them. You want to open up that checking account? You didn’t fill out the paperwork right. Here’s another sheet. Go back and do it again. You want that driver’s license because you need to take your grandma to her radiation treatment? Great, make sure you pass the parallel parking even though you won’t use it. Oh, sorry, you failed. You can try again in a week.

We’ve come to accept this is part of life. It is growing increasingly rare when folks are willing to work things out for what is needed, giving of their own time to provide an experience outside of the examples I just gave. This has become such a novel concept that they are now writing books about it and how acting in this manner sets you apart from your competition. Sad, isn’t it? This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. How do I know? I know because God doesn’t work this way. God is so often looking at our needs and providing, even when we make a mess of things. Case in point, we know what happened with Adam and Eve. They sinned. Then they tried to dodge God. When that didn’t work, they tried to dodge the accusation. And when that didn’t work, they resorted to finger pointing. But that didn’t prevent God from taking care of both their short and long term needs. The short term:

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
  – Genesis 3:21, ESV

They were leaving the safety of the Garden (ejected for their sin) and were no longer innocent. The clothing was necessary, just as we often find it is today (unless you’re between the ages of 1 and 3 and your parents have company over, at which point it is most definitely not necessary). Short term need covered, He also made sure the long term need, dealing with sin, was covered, too:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

– Genesis 3:15, ESV

This was a promise of a son from woman who would conquer the serpent. We know the fulfillment of this promise as Jesus Christ, who went to the Cross with our sins upon His shoulders. God covered the long term, too. And He did it in spite of their sin, in complete contrast to how they behaved. In other words, He came through even though they were wrong. He does the same for us today. He might not do it the way we’d like or in a way we initially comprehend as being for us. However, God delivers what we need, even when we’re in the midst of our sin and doing anything but walking with Him. See, God’s mercy isn’t dependent upon us and our actions. It is solely dependent upon God’s character. That’s what Adam and Even should have learned and that’s what we should take to heart, too. He will provide because of who He is. Praise God! Though we are undeserving, He delivers! Let us do so, too, adopting an attitude of love and mercy towards those around us.

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The Miracles of Jesus (35/35)

Ever feel like you’ve messed up so badly God can’t forgive you? Or maybe you’re at a point where you’d like a “do over” with God. The great news is God meets His own where they are. He knows our limitations. He is fully aware of our flaws. And He has a track record of seeing us at our worst and being the first one to offer a hand up. That’s what today’s miracle is all about. It is fitting that His last miracle is the one that tells us we can start over with Him:

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. – John 21:4-7, ESV

The disciples had gone back to Galilee. We have no indication that Jesus and Peter had addressed Peter’s betrayal. Verses 1-2 tell us that Jesus did appear to Peter in Galilee, but we’re not given any details. And that’s what makes it very interesting that in verse 3 Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” The others join him. In a sense, the disciples are going back to where it all started. Peter likely wanted a “do over.” And he got one.

After Peter gets to shore and they eat, Peter and Jesus talk and Jesus restores Peter. He restores Peter’s confidence. He restores Peter’s understanding that Peter is still one of His. He restores Peter’s authority to serve and lead in the Kingdom. There wasn’t a dwelling or flogging about what Peter had done. That was in the past and Jesus was looking to the future. He was seeing what Peter would become, not what Peter was. The past was addressed. It was dealt with. The future remained. And Jesus helped Peter turn his eyes from his past to his future. Jesus offers to do the same with each one of us.

As C.J. Mahaney points out in The Cross-Centered Life, the Gospel means that our sins are dealt with and forgiven. We’re justified the moment we’re saved. Yes, we must deal with our sins and seek repentance and forgiveness for them, but once that’s done, it’s done in God’s eyes. We’re the ones who hold on. We’re the ones who won’t let go of the guilt and the shame. It’s as if we believe that beating ourselves up more will make us holier before God or something. But we have no personal holiness. Our holiness is imputed to us by Jesus Christ. We are holy only because we are His. So once we’ve taken our sins before God, we need to let them go. We’ve gotten our “do over” with God. And He will forgive us. He doesn’t go back on His word (pun intended).

Are you struggling with something you’ve already confessed to Him? Is it still weighing you down? That’s not God doing that to you. That weight hurts you and makes you less effective for the Kingdom. That runs contrary to what God wants to accomplish with you. He has offered to take the burden off your shoulders. And if you’ve confessed it, He will, as soon as you let go of it. If you’re struggling with something and you’ve not confessed it and dealt with it before God, why hold on to something that is just hurting you? He offered you His burden, which is light, and He’ll take yours. If you’re reading this and you’ve never come to Jesus Christ, never accepted His proper place as Lord and Master over your life, by doing so with your heart, by answering His call to be one of His for eternity, He will take all those past burdens from you. While this world might not let you start over, in His eyes you will. And His eyes are the only eyes that matter. Let us not be so weighed down by the burdens He has offered to carry that we cannot joyously love and serve Him. Let us not be encumbered by sins we’ve confessed and turned over that we are ineffective for the growth of His Kingdom. Let us instead feel the freedom He has offered us, freedom from the burden of sin and the freedom to obey and serve Him fully out of true love and devotion for Him!

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The Miracles of Jesus (18/35)

Ever deal with someone who wouldn’t let something go? You’ve explained yourself time and time again but it doesn’t matter. They still say the same thing even though you’ve disproven their claims. Frustrating, isn’t it? Jesus dealt with that same problem.

As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” – Matthew 9:32-34, NASB

In a previous miracle, when Jesus cast out demons from a mute man, the claims that were made were that He cast out the demons because He was on the side of the demons. He countered that argument by pointing out that to do so would be to divide the house. Once again Jesus casts out demons from a mute man. And once again, many were astonished. The Pharisees, of course, were none too pleased. They had already started conspiring against Jesus. So naturally they trot out an argument to counter what He had done. The best one they had was the old one Jesus refuted. However, you can probably figure that some of the people heard what the Pharisees said and believed them. The accusation doesn’t have to be true. That’s the way it was in Jesus’ time and that’s the way it is now. And that’s why it is so frustrating.

The good news is that you don’t have to face those situations alone. Jesus has been there, too. He understands your frustration. He feels the anger rising up within you. However, we don’t have to respond in a way that is sinful. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and just do the right thing. Sometimes that means smiling and bearing it. Sometimes it may mean a gentle rebuke. And sometimes it means just avoiding contact with said person. There is no answer that is right all the time, it totally depends on circumstances. However, be assured that the Lord Jesus Christ has been there, has felt what you felt, and came through without sin. That means there is hope for us, too.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16, NASB

The key on how to respond is the same way all these folks who came to Him for healing, for deliverance from their demon possession, for the true wisdom that only comes from God: we must come to Him. We can do so with confidence, as Hebrews 4:16 tells us. We can because our God understands us. He knows what we face. He has walked in our shoes. And He sits on His throne with His arms open wide, waiting for us to come. If we’ve already struggled and sinned, we can receive mercy. If we haven’t, but we’re at that point where we need His aid, He will provide it to us through His grace. That’s what verse 16 reminds us. We aren’t doing this life alone. We are doing it with Jesus. We are walking with our Savior. He’s right there with us all the time. It’s up to us to turn to Him before we get ourselves in a mess and earnestly ask, “Jesus, would you help me?” If we have been holding on to our confession of Christ as our Lord and Savior, He will honor such a request. And He will honor it whenever we have a real need, not just in conflicts with other people. So the only question left to ask is, “Will you come?”

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We Do It for Our Pets, But Why Not Each Other?

Dogs are destructive. Puppies are extremely destructive. They get into everything, they chew up everything, and they go when they feel like they have to go. Most of us love the energy and the enthusiasm of a puppy but we look forward to when that puppy matures a little and doesn’t try to chew everything and is housebroken. But even after a puppy becomes an adult dog, we forgive an awful lot. This thought hit me last night as I was watching part of Marley and Me. If you don’t know the story, it’s about the relationship of a family with an unusually active and destructive yellow labrador retriever. Normally calmer dogs as they grow up, that’s not the case with Marley. Marley stayed rambunctious until old age finally caught up with him. But he was a part of the family, an important part of the family, and all of his misdeeds were forgiven. There was one point in the film where the wife is struggling with the children and Marley was completely out of control. She tells the husband to get rid of Marley. He ends up dropping Marley off at a friend for a few days and when he returns home, the wife asks about Marley. He tells her that Marley is staying with a friend until he can find a more permanent home. Her response is expected: their home is Marley’s home. He just got to be too much for the moment. And all is forgiven.

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. – Matthew 6:14-15, NASB

So why aren’t we the same towards people? Why do we hold grudges so easily and forgive so slowly? I guess one argument could be that people should know better, but that’s not always the case. I know there are times when I’ve said something and you can immediately see the hurt on the other person’s face. The problem was there was a situation just previously that I didn’t know about. And while what I said would normally be totally benign and fine, because of this previous encounter those same innocent words caused pain. That’s a whole lot more unintentional than a dog chewing off the ear of a favorite stuffed animal. Yet almost always the dog is forgiven. But that’s not the case with a situation like I described. We seem to want to hold the grudge, to fail to forgive, to embrace the pain and misery. But that’s not what the Father wants.

The Father wants us to forgive. Others will hurt us. Even those who try their best not to hurt other folks will occasionally do so. That’s part of being imperfect. That’s the cost of struggling with the flesh. We accept that our pets are going to be imperfect. We need to accept the fact that we will be imperfect. We accept that fact in ourselves, but we need to accept that fact with respect to others. And it doesn’t matter if someone does something intentionally or not. We forgive. Jesus doesn’t give any conditions when He lays out the Father’s expectations. So that means there are no conditions. The forgiveness act is supposed to be always and unconditional. That’s what God wants. If we can do it for our pets, why can’t we do it for each other?

Forgiveness is serious business. Remember what Jesus said to Peter when Peter asked about how many times to forgive:

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. – Matthew 18:22, NASB

Other translations may render it seventy-seven times. Either way, that’s a large number. We cannot neglect forgiveness, no matter how hard it may be, no matter how much that other person may have hurt us, no matter how much we want to hang onto that grudge. We’ve got to let all of that go and forgive. If it helps to think about how we respond to our pets, how we so easily forgive the mess in the middle of the floor, or the pillow turned into a winter scene, or the trash can turned over and the trash dragged all over the house, then we should apply that same thinking to other folks. I know that everything I’ve written today is easier said than done. But it is what God expects. And I sure don’t want to appear before Him at the Great White Throne and try to explain how I can so easily forgive my dog, but I couldn’t forgive my fellow man. I know any argument I could come up with won’t do. After all, He forgave me of my sins and look at the cost. Nothing I will go through will cost as much. So forgive I must.

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