"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:36 NIV
Be merciful! Christ extends a powerful invitation in those two words. We are to show others the same kind of compassion and forgiveness that God extends to us. We understand conceptually what that means, but how do we put this into practice?
In Jesus' life and ministry, we have an example of how this looks. Even while being crucified, he prayed for his executioners, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do?" (Luke 23:34) As humans, many times, we find it so difficult to forgive. Instead, we bottle up our anger and resentment and let it fester. What instead of reacting with our natural instinct, we prayed for that person's well being.
Here's an exercise you can try for the next week. Just try it, and let's see what happens. Write down on a piece of paper the name of anyone who has ever wronged you, anyone, for whom you may still hold a grudge. Search back as far as you can in memory. That bully in high school. Even that nameless person who cut you off in traffic yesterday. Each day for the next seven days, pray not only for forgiveness for yourself but for that person's well being. Show them compassion. Pray, they are blessed. At the end of the week, revisit your feelings. Do you still hold that anger and resentment, or has it lessened or even disappeared?
Christ knows that forgiveness is tough. Remember his response to Peter in Matthew 18:21-22, on how many times we should forgive? "Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" It may take more than seventy-seven times to overcome your resentment, but in this forgiveness, you are demonstrating the same kind of mercy God shows us.
God, we give you thanks for your mercy. We acknowledge we are a stubborn, unforgiving people by nature. Rather than forgive, we harbor our anger and resentment. Please help us overcome our sinful nature and forgive -- help us show others the same mercy you show us. We are choosing right now to forgive all those who have wronged us. We seek a blessing for them that they may flourish in your love and compassion. Also, we ask forgiveness for ourselves. We are sorry for the times we have sinned against others knowingly and unknowingly. In Christ Jesus, we pray. Amen.