"To err is human, to forgive, divine" said Alexander Pope, a British poet. Most of us can identify with the humanity of the fellow who knelt to pray and said, "I've done my part, Lord."
In fact, in the past I often thought, "Isn't God tired of me asking His forgiveness?" Then I discovered a comforting verse in Psalm 146:5, "God takes pleasure in those who...hope in his mercy." It was as though He said, "I'm especially delighted when you hope in My mercy rather than despair because you've failed." What comfort this verse often gives me.
Then one day someone hurt me, and I thought I should receive an apology. None came. I prayed for grace, and the Lord lifted my feeling of hurt-except when I'd begin thinking about the situation. How tempted I was to dwell on it!
One morning in my devotions I reread the verse that means so much to me when I fail. "God takes pleasure in those who hope in his mercy." The Holy Spirit whispered, "Can you be as grateful for My mercy for him as you are when I give My mercy to you?"
Could I still rejoice in this truth when I thought someone had wronged me? Was I delighting in the fact that he received God's mercy? Was I allowing God to take pleasure in me because I was hoping in His mercy for another? Or did only realizing I'm the recipient of His mercy comfort me? I began to thank God for His mercy for the one who had hurt me and, with relief, suddenly realized I had forgiven him from my heart.
Even if someone does not come seeking my forgiveness, I have an obligation to grant forgiveness and extend mercy--even if the person has sinned against me repeatedly and severely. My forgiveness of others is a prerequisite for me to receive forgiveness.
"Forgive us our debts as we forgive us our debtors," is a prayer asking God to forgive us to the same degree we forgive others. Jesus adds a postscript to this prayer: "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:15). If any bitterness or unkindness remains, if we do not clearly, fully, and from the heart, forgive all men their trespasses, God cannot fully forgive us.
One of my favorite pictures of forgiveness is of Jesus and His disciples eating their last supper. When Jesus announced, "One of you will betray Me," no one could guess who was guilty. Nothing in His demeanor, not even a look of reproach, said to the disciples, "Judas is the man." Jesus forgave and had mercy on all who had part in His murder. "He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities" (Psalm 103:10). By receiving God's forgiveness through Christ, I am forfeiting my right to be offended when others hurt me.
During my devotions I like to sing softly or read a hymn. This morning I read through "Come Thou Fount." I love the line that says: "Streams of mercy never ceasing." If someone has wronged you, try giving praise for the "streams of mercy never ceasing" God is showering on them.
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32).
Dear God, I praise You for your mercy to all of us. Today, I choose to forgive others who have hurt me because you have so graciously forgiven me. Thank you for giving me Your peace and joy as I extend mercy to others. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Memory Verse for October
"Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer [life], being both alert and intent in your praying with thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2 Amplified).