Since we’ve received such incredible Mercy from God, it’s only fair we show this same Mercy to others. There will always be some situation when we have the power to harm someone who harmed us, but really, how can we do that when God chooses not to do the same to us because of our Faith in His Son Jesus?
The Victory in Virtue Series
Part 12: Fight the Vices Part 1 — Gluttony
Part 13: Fight the Vices Part 2 — Sloth
Part 14: Fight the Vices Part 3 — Envy
Part 15: Fight the Vices Part 4 — Wrath
Part 16: Fight the Vices Part 5 — Lust
Part 17: Fight the Vices Part 6 — Pride
Part 18: Fight the Vices Part 7 — Greed
Part 19: Fight the Vices Part 8 — Fear
Hello Readers, hope all’s well. Today I present another entry in the Victory in Virtue series. As this series gets closer to wrapping up, I’m continuing with more Virtues. Today’s post is on the double Virtue of Mercy and Forgiveness.
Mercy and Forgiveness are taught throughout the entire Bible, both Testaments. And Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the Cross was the ultimate act of God’s Mercy. We all sin, and none of us are capable of following the Law (Romans 3:23). Our sins carry the death penalty—we all deserve death!! And that means Spiritual death, of course. Eternal damnation.
But Jesus died on the Cross, an innocent man. He took on the punishment we all deserve, so that we don’t have to. And if we put our Faith in Him, confess and REPENT! of our sins, our sins are Forgiven. What an amazing blessing! How can we even describe how incredible this blessing is??
And once we’ve received this indescribable blessing, how can we not pay it forward by showing Mercy and Forgiveness toward others??
That’s what the double Virtue of Mercy and Forgiveness is all about. So let’s get into it now.
What Is the Virtue of Mercy and Forgiveness?
Mercy. Noun: Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
Forgiveness. Noun: The action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.
UGH!! Don’t you hate it when the dictionary gives definitions like that? Here’s a different one: A conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness
The double Virtue of Mercy and Forgiveness is made of two related choices. Mercy is an action, while Forgiveness is a thought or feeling (which will also lead to action, usually).
So let’s talk about these two ideas that make up the Virtue. Let’s start with the Virtue of Mercy.
Mercy is a choice to not punish or harm someone who we could punish or harm. Mercy is choosing Self-Control, letting a defeated enemy go without exacting punishment. Proverbs 25:21-22 tells us the Wisdom of showing Mercy. If a defeated enemy is at our Mercy, we should give them food and water. If we do this it heaps burning coals on their heads (the shame and humiliation they feel from needing our Mercy). The LORD will reward us for not exacting vengeance, because vengeance is not ours, of course.
(21) If your enemies are starving, feed them some bread;Proverbs 25:21-22 (CEB)
if they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
(22) By doing this, you will heap burning coals on their heads,
and the LORD will reward you.
But most of Christians aren’t getting into battles with people and defeating “enemies.” So is it possible to look at Mercy in a more practical way? Let’s think of a few examples:
- We can cut off a family member and go No-Contact with them, but we decide not to because it would cause them emotional pain
- Someone owes us money, hasn’t paid us back yet, and we can get them into legal trouble for this, but we Forgive their debt
- Someone causes problems at our church, business, or other group we belong to, and we have the power to kick them out but choose not to because they REPENT! and change their ways
These actions are all practical ones that we may have the power to do. And we may be tempted to do them. If someone causes trouble in our church, and we can kick them out, our first instinct will be to do it. But isn’t it better if we show them Mercy instead? Troublemakers and sinners are the ones who need Jesus the most, because “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do.” (Matthew 9:12) Church is the best place for these people to be, for their Spiritual sake. Though they may irritate us, it’s better for them—and shows more Christian love toward them—if we let them stay.
Of course, if they refuse to REPENT! and change their ways, then we can kick them out once their actions prove they won’t change. We must turn the other cheek, but there are also some healthy limits that should be in place. We can’t let a disruptive person cause chaos in our church groups forever if they won’t change. But Mercy should always be our first response.
When we show Mercy toward those we could punish, we’re acting like our Father in Heaven. He doesn’t give us the punishment we deserve for our sins once we confess them and put our Faith in His Son, Jesus. Out of gratitude and joy at our stay of execution, we should do the same for others.
I like the explanation of Mercy that can be found on Day 7 of the “Bible in One Year 2021 with Nicky Gumbel” reading plan from Bible.com (the Bible App). The New Testament reading for Day 7 is Matthew 5, part of the Sermon on the Mount. Nicky says this about why we must show Mercy:
To have mercy on your enemies is to imitate your Father in heaven – ‘that you may be children of your Father in heaven’ (v.45a). God’s mercy extends to those who are hostile towards him: ‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ (v.45b).Bible.com, “Bible in One Year 2021 with Nicky Gumbel” Reading Plan Day 7 Devotional
To have mercy like this marks you out from the world: ‘If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?’ (v.46). We tend only to love people who are like us, or whom we like. But you are called to be different. You are called to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to as ‘the “extraordinary”… the hallmark of the Christian’.
There is a connection between forgiving and receiving forgiveness. We cannot receive God’s mercy ourselves and then show no mercy to others. We do not earn forgiveness by forgiving others, but Jesus says that our forgiveness of others is essential to receiving forgiveness from God.
We must show Mercy because God has shown us Mercy first. He does not punish our sins as we deserve, because we put our Faith in His Son Jesus. To thank Him, we must show equal Mercy to others, and refrain from punishing them as they deserve. God will give us our original punishment if we don’t show Mercy to others. God will show no Mercy to the merciless (James 2:13)
(13) There will be no mercy in judgment for anyone who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy overrules judgment.James 2:13 (CEB)
And now onto the other part of this Virtue, Forgiveness.
If Mercy is about an action we choose to do or not do, Forgiveness is more of an emotion. Forgiveness is about what we think and feel toward someone and what they’ve done.
Forgiveness is about having the attitude of letting things go, even terrible sins committed against us, and choosing not to feel resentment or bitterness (etc.) toward someone anymore. It’s choosing to drop the grudges we hold against them in our heart, and move on. It’s an attitude of not being angry at them anymore, of choosing not to demand any payback for what they did. It’s an internal emotion of releasing them from punishment, saying you don’t want payback but only want to move on.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean their sin never happened, or it didn’t hurt us. Forgiveness means that we no longer seek retribution, and will let it go to move on. Forgiveness does not change the past. But it does change our present and future.
Choosing to give up any payback we could very well rightly deserve is a sacrifice and act of self-denial. But it’s an act that honors and pleases God. And it’s also for our own benefit.
When we don’t forgive something, we’re always angry about it. Our bitterness and resentment grows as we hold on to the anger. Instead of healing from what happened, the memories of it only torment us more as we hold on to the pain of what we don’t forgive.
When we forgive the person for what they did, we forgive them of all the pain their sin caused us too. Once we do, we can begin the process of healing from that pain, and moving on. We can’t heal from our pain until we forgive, because if we stay angry, we’re focusing on that pain instead of letting it go.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18 is Jesus’ famous and most clear teaching on Forgiveness. Let’s look at The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35.
(21) Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”Matthew 18:21-35 (CEB)
(22) Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times. (23) Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. (24) When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. (25) Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. (26) But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ (27) The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.
(28) “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’ (29) “Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ (30) But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.
(31) “When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. (32) His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. (33) Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ (34) His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt.
(35) “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
First let’s start with the obvious lesson from this Parable. When we turn to Jesus and REPENT!, we are Forgiven our sins. Our Heavenly Father Forgives our full debt. If we then decide not to Forgive our brother or sister from our heart, our Father will not Forgive us either. He will reinstate our punishment and make us pay what we owe (which we can’t pay). God Forgives the unForgiveable in us, and so we must do the same for others.
Not Forgiving others costs us our Salvation. That’s far too high a price to pay: Eternal punishment for the short-term satisfaction of revenge.
And not only does unForgiveness lead us to eternal torment after death, it causes needless torment while we’re still alive too.
We can’t get past the pain of an old wound if we stay focused on it. If we don’t Forgive, we’re staying focused on the pain someone has caused us. We need to focus on moving forward instead. To do that, we need to Forgive, let go, and move on.
Staying angry about pain from the past does not help us move on today, in the present, the time in which we live. Trust in God to see Justice done, and give everyone what they deserve. Rest assured that if the other person deserves punishment, God will punish them for what they’ve done; but it’s God’s right, not ours (Romans 12:19). No one will get away with anything—we must let God deal with it as He says He will, and move on with our own life. Start working on our own healing.
Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, “Revenge belongs to Me; I will pay it back, says the Lord.”Romans 12:19, CEB
When we Forgive, we leave Justice up to God. This frees us from holding on to the pain of what someone did because we’re no longer obsessed with payback. It allows us to move forward with our life. If we don’t Forgive, we’re letting the pain caused by what someone did to us control our life. We’re in prison with this pain, it’s always with us, tormenting us. If we want to leave this prison of torment, we have to Forgive the pain and let it go. Once we do, it no longer has this control over us and our happiness.
Forgiveness also allows us to have God’s Forgiveness for our sins, and honors God. When we Forgive, we’re acting like children of God, and not like those who are focused on payback.
Forgiving is one of the hardest things we could ever do, because our pain and suffering caused by others is very real. But it’s something we must do, and something well worth doing—for us, more than for the other person.
Yes, the most difficult things in life are often the ones most worth doing. Lucky for us, when we’re faced with something difficult, we have an amazing resource, help, and source of strength available to us: Prayer. If we want help practicing the Virtue of Mercy and Forgiveness, we should pray for it. So let’s turn to that now.
Prayers for the Virtue of Mercy and Forgiveness
There are many prayers we could pray to receive the Virtue of Mercy and Forgiveness. The best ones of course will be the ones that we create ourselves—the ones that come straight from the heart. Remember: When we pray we aren’t trying to say the right combination of words to unlock something in Heaven. No, that would be magic, which is an abomination to the LORD. Prayer is much simpler. Simply tell the LORD what you want, what you need, what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you, and so on.
Praying for a Virtue is a great way to build it up. It’s one of the best ways, actually. So here are a few short, simple prayers for the Virtue of Mercy and Forgiveness you can try adding to your prayer routine.
No One Escapes Your Justice
The Virtue of Mercy is found in not punishing our defeated “enemies” who we have the power to punish or harm. It’s making the choice to restrain ourselves, and give up our revenge.
In other words, Mercy is entrusting our case and this person’s punishment to God and His perfect Justice, rather than taking matters into our own hands.
Now most of us aren’t running around defeating “enemies.” So we need to realize when we can show the Virtue of Mercy in more practical situations in our real life. For example, if we set a boundary with someone because they kept sinning against us, but then they REPENT! and honestly change their ways later, we could let them back in our life. This is an act of Mercy. It’s choosing not to inflict the punishment (keeping them out of our life) that’s within our power to do.
Showing Mercy takes great inner strength, Self-Control, and restraint. Our first instinct when wronged is to get revenge. It takes strength to overpower our first instincts. So here’s a prayer asking for the strength to do it:
LORD, thank You that You are a God of Justice who will right every wrong and repay everyone for their deeds. I rejoice that everyone—including me—will one day have to face you after death and account for our lives (Hebrews 9:27). I have peace of mind knowing that no one will never be able to escape Your Divine Justice after death. And so I will trust in You, LORD, and Your perfect Justice to punish those who sin against me—if they deserve it. Grant me the strength and Self-Control to not take vengeance against anyone, even when it’s in my power to do so. Grant me the strength to have Mercy on all my “enemies” and restrain my anger. Amen.
A Declaration of Forgiveness
What a blessing Forgiveness is. And I mean in every sense. It feels good to apologize to a friend, and have that apology be accepted. It feels good to reconcile with others, and be friends or family again.
But the Forgiveness we get from Jesus is on a whole different level. That Forgiveness is amazing, indescribable, incredible. We have all sinned and transgressed the Law, and none of us can stop from sinning (Romans 3:23). We all deserve death for our sins, to suffer eternally for our wicked lust and greed and wrath and more.
But God had Mercy on us, through the sacrifice of His son Jesus on the Cross. Jesus took the punishment that we deserved. Now our sins are Forgiven, if we only confess Jesus and believe in Him. What a blessing!
But to keep that blessing, we must also show Forgiveness to others. Since we were Forgiven of a debt we could never pay, we must also Forgive all others for their sins against us. We can never repay the LORD for His unconditional Forgiveness. But we can make our best effort by unconditionally Forgiving others.
So this prayer is a declaration of our unconditional Forgiveness of all who ever wronged us, living or dead.
LORD, thank You for the blessing of Forgiveness available to all who believe in Your Son Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross. Without Your Forgiveness LORD, I would be doomed. It’s not possible for me to ever thank You enough for the blessing of being Forgiven. And I know that now I must I Forgive all others who harmed me, generous terms which I gladly accept. So I declare, LORD, that I willingly and unconditionally Forgive all who have ever sinned against me, living or dead. In the same way You graciously choose to Forgive my debt to You and demand no payback, I also Forgive their debt to me and demand nothing. In my heart and mind, I now release them from any payback I ever felt they deserved. I make the choice to Forgive as I have been Forgiven. Amen!
Come into the Pain of My Wounds and Heal Me
Sometimes the pain of the wounds inflicted on us by others is what stops us from Forgiving. We stay focused on our pain—which is understandable, because it hurts so much—and the way our life has been harmed by our trauma. And we may know full well that this way of thinking keeps us in our past pain and stops us from moving on, but the overwhelming pain is too much for us to get over.
When faced with a situation like this, we need to pray for healing. God will heal our wounds over time, and point us in the direction of knowledge and treatments that will help us to move past our trauma. He will give us the help we need to Forgive, and move forward with our life, no longer being enslaved to our painful trauma-filled past. So this is a prayer asking God to come into the pain of our wounds and heal them. Once that happens, and we start to move on, then we’ll be able to Forgive.
LORD, I want to Forgive, and I know the importance of Forgiving. I also understand how my unForgiveness causes me extra emotional pain and torment by keeping me stuck to the pain of past wounds. But this very pain is what keeps me from being able to Forgive. So please, LORD, I beg You to come into the pain of these wounds and heal them with Your healing love. Grant me the knowledge, Wisdom, and strength to overcome the effects of my trauma and live a healthier life, free from this pain. Give me the help I need to live in the present and move forward, beyond the trauma of the past. Grant me the healing I need to accept the past I can’t change, Forgive those who harmed me, focus on healing in the present, and move on from this pain. I have Faith that You can Heal me LORD. Amen.
Again, there are so many options for praying for any Virtue. I could go on and on and on. Everyone is always welcome to leave a comment with prayers of their own.
But once we’re done praying, it’s time to act (in the physical world). Let’s move on to that now.
Living the Virtue
To cultivate a Virtue, we must also practice it, and do that consistently. Don’t just do it a few times and stop there—stay consistent. That consistency is how we build up a habit. It’s also how we cultivate and strengthen a virtue.
So how can we do that with Mercy and Forgiveness? Let’s look at a few practical ideas. And remember: These are only a start! The possibilities are endless. I welcome any comments with good ideas about this.
Here are just a few ideas of how we can live out the Virtue of Mercy and Forgiveness in our own lives:
- Accept someone’s apology, but have a talk with them about why what they did was wrong, how it made us feel, and how we won’t tolerate them doing it again
- Reach out to a friend or family member we have conflict with and clear things up. Reconcile with them. Hear how they’ve been affected by the conflict. Apologize and work things out. Receiving Forgiveness helps us become more Forgiving toward others.
- Seek out therapy or find other ways to heal from the pain of our past trauma. Since this pain is such a barrier to Forgiveness, the more we heal, the more we’re able to Forgive
- And other ideas you can think of!
First is a practical idea for exercising the Virtue of Mercy. If there’s someone in our life who’s trying to apologize and reconcile with us, we can show Mercy by accepting their apology and letting them back in our life. This is a good and Virtuous thing to do, but at the same time, that’s not all there is to it.
If we show Mercy to someone who hasn’t shown true REPENTANCE!, they’re only going to commit the same sins against us later. Whatever the problem was—lying, stealing, disrespect, etc.—it will only happen again. So we need to add some Wisdom to our Mercy and mix them nicely in our Forgiveness blender.
First, we should talk things out with the person after accepting their apology. We need to let them know why what they did was wrong, how it made us feel to suffer what they did, and that we won’t tolerate them doing that to us again. We set up a healthy boundary, and let them know we won’t stand for being harmed like that again even if we choose to turn the other cheek now.
As time goes on, the fruit of that person’s actions will show if they have truly REPENTED! or not. If yes, their actions will change, and they won’t do the same sins against us or others. But if they haven’t truly REPENTED!, they’ll be up to the same old nonsense. If we see that happen, that’s when it’s time for us to enforce our healthy boundary against them, and keep them at a healthy distance.
The second item takes the opposite perspective as the first. The second item is about us asking others for Forgiveness.
It feels good to be Forgiven. It feels good to have an apology be accepted. It feels good to hear someone say, “I’m not mad about that anymore. Let’s forget about that.” It feels good when former friends become current friends once again.
So if we have someone in our life who we have conflict with, or who we’re somewhat estranged from, it’s good to try to reconcile with these people. We can reach out to them, approach them, and let them know we want to clear things up. If they accept our apology, we should have the same talk with them as described in the first item. We should hear them out and listen to how the situation has affected them, and how it made them feel. Then we should apologize if the Spirit convicts us to (in the vast majority of cases we should apologize), and clear things up.
What’s the point of this? Well, receiving Forgiveness from others makes us more Forgiving in turn. So being Forgiven is a great help if we want to become more Forgiving ourselves. It’s only natural that we start treating others the way we’re being treated. As Christians we must be Forgiving even when others aren’t Forgiving toward us. But if we can receive Forgiveness from someone, it’ll give us a big boost toward our Forgiveness goals.
The last item is one that will go a very long way toward enabling us to Forgive, if we can’t yet bring ourselves to do so. If we have painful trauma from our past, some sins against us which feel too great to Forgive and still cause us pain to this very day, we may need to focus on healing that pain first before we’re able to Forgive.
Besides devoted prayer, if we seek out therapy and other activities that can help us understand our pain and heal from it, we can come to terms with what happened and heal better. Some things that can help us heal from our emotional pain are calming hobbies like gardening, art, and exercise. Other good things to do are read books on trauma and recovering from the pain of past wounds.
Although the LORD is all we need, and He will heal our wounds, there are also times when He points us to these secular things because they can help. So we must not ignore books or hobbies (etc.) as not able to contribute to our healing. They can help us, and if they can the LORD will direct us to them.
And the point of this is that the more we heal from the pain of our wounds, the more we’re ready to Forgive. Sometimes we need to heal first before we can get to a place where we have it in our heart to Forgive. If the LORD knows that, He will walk with us and work with us as we recover from our pain and move forward. When it’s time, we’re ready to Forgive. The more we focus on healing in any way we can, the faster we’ll get to that point.
He Forgave Us, now We Must Forgive too
What a blessing it is to be Forgiven. To be shown Mercy. It already feels great in our personal lives, when an old friend decides to accept our apology and reconcile, for example. But the Forgiveness and Mercy of Jesus are on a whole different level.
We deserve death for our sins. Every one of us. But that death sentence was paid on our behalf by an innocent man, our Savior Jesus Christ. We don’t need to suffer the death (eternal damnation) we deserve if we put our Faith in Him.
We can see this in John 8, when Jesus pardons the adulterous woman. Adultery was a sin that carried the death sentence under the Law of Moses, so the crowd wanted to stone her to death. But Jesus told them “He who hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” The crowd went away, the woman was spared. And Jesus told her that He did not condemn her. This is vital, and we should always keep it in mind as Christians.
(4) they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. (5) In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone women like this. What do you say?” […] (7) They continued to question him, so he stood up and replied, “Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” [… verses 8-9, the crowd leaves … ] (10) Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Is there no one to condemn you?” (11) She said, “No one, sir.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, don’t sin anymore.”John 8:4-5, 7, 10-11 (CEB)
Jesus did not condemn this woman for a sin that carried the death penalty. And He is also speaking to us, through Scripture. Jesus does not condemn us for our sins. He suffered the death penalty we deserved, for us. He tells us to go and sin no more, but He does not condemn us.
Since we’ve received such incredible Mercy from God, it’s only fair we show this same Mercy to others. There will always be some situation when we have the power to harm someone who harmed us, or exact justice (little ‘j’) on them. But really, how can we do that when God chooses not to do the same to us because of our Faith in His Son Jesus?
We must show our gratitude for God’s goodness with Mercy and Forgiveness toward others. We must not be like the unforgiving servant from Matthew 18. If we don’t Forgive others like the unforgiving servant, God will retract the Forgiveness He gave us and demand that we pay back our debt. If we demand others pay us back, God will punish us how we punish others.
If we don’t Forgive others, like the unforgiving servant, God will throw us in prison where we are trapped with the pain of the wounds we don’t Forgive. UnForgiveness traps us in prison with the pain of our past, stopping us from moving on.
So Mercy and Forgiveness are not only Virtuous acts that honor God, they’re also what’s best for us. Choosing to Forgive is a healthy decision. And showing this sort of Mercy and Forgiveness is one of the things that sets us apart as Christians from the rest of the world. Remember: When we Forgive others, we’re acting like children of our Heavenly Father. So we need to be Forgiving!! It’s not always easy, but it’s always well worth it. For everyone.
Next time, I’m going back to the vices as I wrap this series up. The vice for next time is hatred. Stay tuned for that and Subscribe to my FREE weekly newsletter with the link below so you’ll never miss a post!!
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