Speaking to the Soul – August 30


There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. James 2:13

Mercy lies right at the heart of God’s dealings with us. Because we have sinned against God we have no right to expect anything other than condemnation. That’s what justice would demand. But God has decided that justice should be set to one side and that we should be shown mercy instead. There is nothing we could ever do to deserve this. It is simply a gift.

Having received that gift, we are then under an obligation to pass it on to others. That is not a matter of choice. Jesus could not have been clearer on this point. He said: “If you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). It has only happened to me on one occasion, but I once spoke with someone who told me that there was someone in their church whom he could never forgive. He told me what the person had done and assured me, in very strong terms, that nothing would ever persuade him to forgive. I knew my duty. I reminded him of the words of Jesus: if he really meant what he said, God could not forgive him, either. It was hard to say but I knew I had to do it.

The problem with forgiveness is that it feels so unjust. If someone has done wrong, they ought to suffer for it. That’s natural justice. But we need to remind ourselves that we rely on God having suspended that principle for us. If he were to judge us for all the things we have done wrong, we would not stand a chance. We rely on his mercy and forgiveness, and so he now commissions us to share that with others.

Jesus told a parable of a man who had been forgiven an overwhelming debt, but who then refused to cancel a tiny little debt that someone owed him (see Matthew 18:21-35). Jesus’ words of condemnation were fierce. As hard as it is to forgive other people when they do us wrong, it is what we are commanded to do.

Is there someone you need to forgive at the moment?

Loving God, I thank you for your willingness to forgive my sins. Help me to be generous and forgiving towards others. Amen