Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 25 - Say Now to Mercy

I once had a conversation with a guy who was a religion major in college and claimed to be an agnostic. Not really knowing what that meant, I asked him to explain to me what it means to be agnostic. To make a long story short, he summarized agnosticism as acknowledging that there may be a higher power in the universe, but there was no way to prove or disprove the idea. I asked him about the idea of faith, because to me, it seems like that's the key piece that an agnostic is missing. His response was that he wasn't concerned because if the God of Christianity was a loving God, like we all believe, then as long as he was a good person, surely a loving God would let him go to Heaven. At the time, I was pretty young in my spiritual journey and wasn't really prepared to answer that claim the way I would have yesterday. And after reading Chapter 25 of Tom Holladay's, "The Relationship Principles of Jesus" I'd have even more to say.

Chapter 25 is the 2x4 moment of this book. What do I mean by that? As I read this chapter, the words jumped off the pages and hit me like a 2x4 across the head.

I love this quote from Tom -

"Being biblically nonjudgemental does not mean we pretend we don't see another person's sin...The question is this: "What will we do about it?"

First we need to look at ourselves and make sure we don't have the same sin in our lives, and if we do, we need to take care of that. Then, and only then, can we show mercy and help the person deal with their sin, in a non-judgmental, loving way.

What really hit home with me is that "MERCY IS NOT OPTIONAL" When I first read that, I thought yeah, yeah, I know that, but it took a minute to really sink in. We've all heard the Lord's Prayer many, many times, and probably can recite it from memory. But do you know what Jesus said to his disciples immediately after teaching the prayer? Tom quotes Jesus' words from Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT version)

"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Whoa! Look at the second half of that quote again - But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

This is not an idea that Jesus mentioned once in passing and then never brought up again. Remember the story of the forgiven debtor who refused to forgive another who owed him money? It sure makes me want to rethink any grudges I may be holding.

Even when it is difficult to show merciful forgiveness, Paul offers some practical advice.

"Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." - Colossians 3:12-14

Day 26 - understanding God's Mercy

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