Sometimes when we are treated unfairly, in the deepest of our heart there comes a 'hope' that the opposite people can be treated the same thing naturally. It seems like a justice to our eyes. If we trace back, this principle has been widely known since the Hammurabbi Law which introduced that we need to exchange eyes for eyes and tooth for tooth. Mahatma Gandhi opposed this view by saying, "An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind." He got it right. Have you ever seen the hatred stops when we pay it back with hatred too? It seems like a justice ... but what is a justice if we cannot make the person or even the world a better place to live on? The problem in this world is not because we are full with evil people, but because we are lacking of forgiving people. Yes, we are lack of mercy.
The Bible defines mercy as not getting what you do deserve [withheld punishment]. It is forgiving though the person does not deserve it. It can also mean as pity or compassion. It would be hard to swallow, hard to do. How can we give forgiveness to those who deserve it so much? I find that we as human beings tend to have difficulty in forgiving when we see ourselves as a better person than the one who made mistakes. It places us as 'righteous' and the other person 'not righteous'. As long as we see ourselves in this position, we will find that we have all the rights to give punishment, judge, condemn, or at least wishing that the other person will receive their 'karma'. In the end, we find ourselves hard to forgive.
These recent days, I have experienced what mercy truly is and that changes me a lot. Being a devoted Christian for 7 years, makes me a bit difficult to see myself as a sinner. Yes, there is no big or small sin in God's eyes. Sin is sin. But somehow there is this particular sin which causes me to feel such a failure and unworthy. I felt like I am truly truly a sinner. Yes, I am a Christian, but I am a sinner too. And knowing it causes me to turn back again and again at the cross, gazing upon Jesus. Lord, was my repentance seven years ago genuine? And here this verse strucked me,
"I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent [who have no need of a change of heart]" -Luke 15:7 [NIV]
The Greek word for repentance is metanoia which means a change of mind, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done. Repentance is not an event, but a life-time process. In Greek, it is written in present repeated tense which means "repent and keep on repenting." So, the question is not whether my first-time repentance was genuine or not, but am I willing to keep on repenting and changing my heart as it is found not according to God's ways? We are in danger when we feel that we have arrived. Yes, salvation is guaranteed by the blood of Christ. But a life that truly abides in Christ will not cause us to live a life of sin continuously innocently. Repent, and keep on repenting.
The Parable of the Lost Son
11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.b’
22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
If you look at Luke 15 more closely, you would find that the whole passage is sharing one theme: mercy. It tells a story about a father who waited for his youngest son to come back, overlooked his sins, ran after him as he got closer to his house [noted: wealthy man on that day did not run!], gave the very best gifts and threw a big party to celebrate his return. Would you like to imagine it for a moment? In our human's eyes the youngest son certainly does not deserve such a treat by his father. But our God, as a loving Father, has such a deep mercy to sinners. He overlooked our past sins as we want to repent. Can we overlook our brother's or sister's sins? Or Are we like the eldest son who thought that he deserved such treatment and his brother did not? Which one will we be?
Through my experience, I find myself as the lost son who needs Father's mercy so much. I am a sinner, therefore I cannot judge other sinners too. You see, no one is perfect. Everyone needs forgiveness although some may never ask for it. But the attitude of the father has called us all to do the same thing. Are you judgmental? Know that the world needs mercy and forgiveness more than judgment. A relationship can only be healthy when it consists of forgivers. We forgive because we are forgiven too.
"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit." -Psalm 32:1-2
Remember always, we are no better than any other 'sinners'. We are never in a place to judge or condemn them guilty. The realization of our own imperfection gives a space for mercy to grow. God has taught us that His mercy endures forever and He longs his people to be known as merciful one. For we are more like him when we love and forgive the undeserving ones.