WEDNESDAY IN THE WORD February 1, 2023
“Be Merciful, for God Is Merciful”
Luke 6: 27-36
How, do we respond to a world under stress, a culture in when the guardrails of so-called civility are gone? The evidence of that stress is everywhere. In airports, and then in the skies, you can find airline passengers angry about wearing masks, angry about inspection of firearms in their carry-ons, seemingly angry about, well, everything.
Close to home, things aren’t much better, and it comes from both sides of our divided society. Whether our tempers flare on an airplane, a highway during rush hour, a long wait at the supermarket, or a hospital waiting room, we seem to have lost our capacity for gracious communal living. There are some people who still bristle at new Covid restrictions. We may assume that folks, we don’t even know, are “out to get us.” Do we “cancel” our revenges — both real and imagined?
So when Scripture takes us to places we would rather ignore and reveals to us some necessary discomfort, especially when they deal with forgiveness. We might just skip ahead and say, “I’ll come back to this another day.” Honestly, why do these make us flinch? Why? Because they are about forgiveness. They are about the work of forgiveness, and the challenges they pose to our “shove or be shoved” culture and, to be candid, they are daunting to many people.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus continues his “Sermon on the Plain” with teachings so countercultural, we hardly know what to do with them even now, two thousand years after he spoke them: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.” And again: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
We cannot know ahead of time what the Holy Spirit will empower us to do. All we can do is consent to obey and do our part and trust God to decrease our weakness into strengthening maturity by His glorious transformative power. And pray with merciful intentionality.
This is another highlight in Black History as we continue to study our world, to learn our history, to learn the stories of our diverse families and friends in faith. FORTUNE by author and leading Christian activist, Lisa Sharon Harper, draws from her own lifelong journey to know her family’s history. She recovers the beauty of her heritage, exposes the brokenness that race has wrought in America, and casts a vision for collective repair. The work of forgiveness is some of the hardest work we can do in this world. It is also some of the most important work we can do in this world. May we glimpse the “better selves” that reside within the people who do us harm. May we rise. And may we taste the full measure of the freedom that awaits us when we choose to forgive. Amen.