I read this quote today and it really made me stop and think...
"Relationships don't thrive because the guilty are punished but because the innocent are merciful"~Max Lucado
There are several situations in my family's life right now that made this so relevant. Innocence and guilt. Who is innocent and who is guilty? It really depends on who you talk to, I suppose. One thing I know for sure is that I am NOT innocent. Not by a long shot. This is where my redemption comes in and saves me over and over. You know, that little thing called grace? It is what fixated me when I read that quote.
The innocent Christ ever merciful to my soiled, guilty soul. Unmerited favor. Salvation.
The human in us longs to see the guilty punished. We want justice for those that have wronged us. We want Karma to happen quickly and we want to be there when the boom lowers. It is hard to fathom the concept of loving our enemy. It's even harder to do it.
I've done a lot of soul-searching about loving the unlovable. It has been hard to swallow the fact that some people hate me and I, in turn, am supposed to love them. It's even harder to love those who hate those that I love. (did that make sense?) Hating me is one thing, hating my mom or my kids or my husband is something entirely different to attempt to process. Those things bring you to whole new level of mercy. That primal instinct to protect those that we love is a very hard beast to contain. I'm not saying that we should allow our loved ones to be hurt, but we sure don't have to lose our tempers and release every mean slander in our arsenal. We can be merciful and still keep a safe haven.
One thing that I have come to learn is that most people see themselves as innocent. They justify bad behaviors by labeling themselves a victim, point the finger outward and never really look inward. It is just human nature to dig at other people's specks while we are donning a huge, cumbersome log. Jesus clearly said that we can't even see clearly until we remove our own strongholds. Looking in on somebody else's life with self-righteous judgement just doesn't work...ever. It is only when we see ourselves as saved sinners that we can be truly merciful. And, if we are busy dealing with our own issues, it makes a lot less time available to spend ridiculing others. I don't know about you but I never really feel all the great when I'm angry or bitter towards someone. It just feels... bad. Even if I really really know I'm right and they are wrong, it just is not pleasant. The ONLY time I find peace is when I truly love them and freely forgive. It is so hard to do initially because of our human nature. It takes practice, time, and patience with yourself. It also takes a lot of Jesus.
It is sad to be hated. I wonder how heartbroken Jesus must have been to be so hated by those he was trying to save. To love someone who just doesn't like you is probably one of life's great tragedies. When there is nothing you can do, when you can only hope and pray, when there really seems to be no hope and you have to just accept the facts...they hate you. When you have been labeled as guilty and the innocent are not merciful, the relationship will crumble. As long as one party stays in a state of self-righteousness and demands that you suffer the consequences, there can be no peace in the relationship. It causes so many "why's" and so much self-reflection. Where did I go wrong? Why is this happening? What can I do?
Love and forgive.
That is when the Holy Spirit shields your heart. Even the most evil acts can't touch the peace that will flood your soul. Knowing that the almighty is protecting you and loving you is impenetrable by any outside force. No amount of hate can touch love. It can't kill it or even scratch it. It's actually a miracle.
It is also a choice. We can choose to hate or we can choose to love. We can choose to blame and shame, or we can choose to forgive. We can stand firm in our position or we can be empathetic. One will keep us in the darkest, stinkiest pit. One will set us free. Seems like an easy enough choice on the surface but can be one of the hardest paths to choose.
As I trod this life, may I always have the strength the choose love. May God always lift my heart during the darkest hours of life and give me peace. It is my prayer for every soul.