By James Mulholland, Praying Like Jesus: The Lord’s Prayer in a Culture of Prosperity, © 2001
“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” is a call to mercy. Forgiveness is not optional. It is the foundation of a healthy relationship with God and with others. To love mercy is to be like God and to love others as God loves them.
I do not love mercy. Too often, I approach mercy as a requirement rather than a joy. I don’t like it, but if God insists, I’ll try. It seems so unnatural. I love judgment. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. What goes around comes around. Someday they’ll get what they deserve. Those are the phrases that trip so easily off my tongue. “I forgive you” sticks to the roof of my mouth.
I love revenge fantasies. Someone cuts me off in traffic and has the audacity to glare at me. Immediately, my imagination kicks in. I fantasize that a few blocks later I see them getting pulled over by the police. I salute them as I slowly drive by. I can only imagine my struggle if someone really sinned against me.
Bud Welch’s daughter, Julie, was killed in the Oklahoma City federal building bombing. When he heard of Timothy McVeigh’s arrest, he felt only rage and a desire for vengeance. McVeigh’s lack of repentance only made his anger hotter. He said, “I just wanted him fried.”
Bud’s hate took him on a journey of sleepless nights and drunken binges to numb the pain. It is also lead him to visit the bombing site. On that visit, he vowed to change. He remembered watching Bill McVeigh, the bomber’s father, on television and suddenly recognizing his pain and grief in that father’s eyes.
He arranged to meet Bill McVeigh. They sat together and talked about their children, one who was dead and one who soon would be. Forgiveness and mercy overwhelmed Bud Welch. He said, “I never felt closer to God than I did at that moment.”
…What displeases God is when his children fight. He is disappointed when we carefully draw dividing lines and refuse to touch or be touched by those on the other side. He grows weary of our selfish complaints. He is discouraged by our demands to have more than our brothers and sisters. When we begin to scream our hate for one another at the slightest offense, we try God’s patience and rebel against his will. We sadden our Father in heaven.
Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back– in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.” –Frederick Buechner
Micah 6:8 — He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Luke 6:36 — (Jesus said), “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
James 2:12-13 — Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
Matthew 6:12 — Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 5:7 — Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
The ancient Jesus prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a poor sinner. AMEN.