We have all been in situations where we have been wronged, hurt, misled or swindled by the actions or inactions of others, intentional or not.
In some instances - not enough, unfortunately - we find them out, realize what they did and have them, 'just where (we) want them.' (Add sinister, vengeful, echoing laugh here).
The point of this message is that taking revenge or harboring resentment for another because of their actions hurts only one person. Unfortunately, it's you, not them.
The intent of the other person or party is important. When someone intentionally wrongs you, it's doubly aggravating, because there is some animus there. 'You hurt me on purpose? What is that all about?' Or you stay silent and begin plotting revenge.
Other times, the 'wrong' is a mistake, a gaffe, a faux pas, a screw-up. They didn't mean it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't harm you in some way. In these instances, your anger takes on a more judgmental tone - 'Are you stupid? Are you incompetent? How did you not see that this would happen??"
Either way, you know what happened to you - how this wrong affected you. And you know who did it. You may not know exactly why - evil or ignorance, to over-summarize - but you have, as Robert Mueller might say, sufficient evidence to support an indictment.
What do you do? Do you take it to trial, confident that your evidence will lead to a conviction? Do you give them a chance to plea bargain?
I'm not a lawyer, and you probably aren't either, but you don't need to be. You're more of an angry plaintiff, demanding justice or retribution.
Now, realizing that Jesus, who taught and demonstrated the concept of mercy by 'turning the other cheek' is standing next to you (because, I believe, He is). Is he going to say, 'Attaway, Jimmy, kick his butt.' or 'OH MAN, he just messed with the wrong guys, Jimmy. Kick his butt!' or even, 'FINISH HIM!'
Maybe you think he would say those things, but you'd be wrong.
Jesus showed us, particularly in the last week before the crucifixion, how to let the wrongs of others go. He endured unspeakably, cruel, highly intentional, devil-driven wrongs. Physical pain, humiliation, hypocrisy, betrayal and everything in between.
He could have blinked His eyes and incinerated the entire city, but He didn't. Indeed, when you get to Revelations, you'll see how He settles up with evil. (Spoiler alert. He wins. Big.)
But in that moment of suffering, He taught us. What he wants us to do in the face of our grievances. How we might show the challenging but necessary trait of mercy.
Mercy is forgiveness, and forgiveness is healing - for you and hopefully the other party. But even if they don't own their wrong, or don't feel they have anything to apologize for or have any need for mercy, the fact is, you do. YOU need mercy.
'Wait, what now? I need the mercy?' Yes, you do. You need to heal. You need to release your grievance, disdain, hurt, bitterness, blame, all of which lead to wasted time and energy.
The real tragedy is doing something that Jesus himself, with omnipotent power at his disposal, and an army of angels ready to swoop in and clean house, chose not to do. Instead,He forgave. He was merciful.
He underwent such horrible treatment to atone - not for himself, as He was without sin - but for us. He didn't have to do that. But he did. Because He loves us.
His example is the one we need to follow, for His sake and for our own. We think that 'revenge is sweet' but how many times have you felt really good having evened up the score with someone who did you wrong?
I know you're thinking of times when it felt pretty good. So am I. That vindication, that self-satisfaction, that PRIDE. But that feeling, if you even get it, doesn't last. This is not a game, and Jesus is not keeping score. He is working on you, refining you, making you more like He is - gentle, compassionate, merciful. Good news, if it was a game, you'd have already won.
Lord, thank you for the mercy you show me all day, every day. You know my weaknesses and faults better than I do, and there are many. Yet you love me anyway. You know I'm trying and I often fail. I don't deserve your mercy, and yet, you give it, endlessly, in the same way I need it, endlessly.
Help me to emulate your mercy in my dealings with those who do me wrong. Let me forgive them whether their actions were intentional, whether they are sorry, whether they even know they did something wrong. Let me show mercy and be an example to those around me. Thank you for the healing and refreshment that forgiving brings.
In Jesus's name I pray, AMEN!