Summary: What does it mean to be merciful? Can you be merciful without forgiving others?
Mercy . . . . Mercy
November 2, 2008
Does anyone who is over 30 years old remember what happened on March 24, 1989? When most of us struggle with what we had for breakfast this morning, this one is a real brain tester. It was a cold night off the coast of Alaska. The captain of the tanker barked orders to a second mate, the orders were vague, the night was black and before they knew what happened, the collision was disastrous. The tanker, the EXXON VALDEZ, had run aground in Bligh Reef, dumping over 11 million gallons of crude oil into one of the most scenic bodies of water in the world. Petroleum blackened everything in sight; beaches, otters, whales, birds, fish and more.
Another night none of us remember also occurred on a cold night, when this ship was speeding toward New York. The TITANIC was the unsinkable ship, hoping to navigate the iceberg infested waters, but no worry . . . then the unthinkable happened to the unsinkable. The scout spotted something in the distance and before you knew it the ship hit one of those icebergs and a gaping hole in the hull was opened. Instead of oil pouring out, it was lives.
These two collisions illustrate something I want to talk about this morning. Because in many respects these terrible collisions were mild when compared to the ones which occur in our lives. We’ve all been there. Someone doesn’t meet our expectations, promises are unfulfilled, we find ourselves rejected at seemingly the most crucial times.
The result? A collision of the hull of our hearts. The energy which escapes us is as black and ugly as the crude oil which escaped from the Valdez. Just like the water which was coated in black oil, our hearts, spirits, minds, our whole body becomes dominated by this darkness, which we call bitterness. It controls us, we can’t escape it, our joy is gone, and we feel suffocated.
This morning, let me ask you - - - do you have a HOLE IN YOUR HEART?
Maybe the wound is old . . . you were abused, you were rejected, a mate betrayed you, a friend turned their back on you, a business deal went bad . . . and now, after all these years, you remain angry.
Or maybe the wound is fresh. The person who owes you money drove past you in their new car, the promotion you hoped for was given to someone else, your career path is not what you once thought it would be, sickness has invaded your body, your best friends went for a long weekend and somehow they forgot to ask you, the children you raised seem to have forgotten about you.
You’re more than angry, you’re seething, you’re like a kettle filled with steam, about to blow its top. You’re ready to scream, to hit, to punish something, anything . . .
Part of you is broken, part of you is bitter. Part of you wants to cry, and part wants to fight. There’s a fire burning in your heart, it’s blazing and consuming. And now you have a decision to make . . . “Do I put the fire out or heat it up? Do I get over it or do I get even? Do I release it or keep it? Do I let my hurts heal, or do I turn my hurts into hate?
You are angry and what is eating you - is eating you up. You are filled with resentment. It has built an iron clad wall around you. Resentment is when you are stoking and poking and feeding the fire, stirring the flames and deliberately reliving the pain. You’re nursing a grudge, in a sense you feel power from it, because that anger is the source of your new found passion. Now you rejoice each time you can sling that sludge and mud at someone else.
So, let’s say you get even. Is it really going to make you feel that much better in the long run? If the person or situation you hate goes away, does it automatically make you feel better? NOPE! You still have to live with yourself. Without forgiveness, all you have left is bitterness. And that leaves you with a gaping hole in the hull of your heart. You can be like this gaping hole in the USS COLE. This was terrorist action. It can be nothing you did to promote your wound. On the other hand, it may be self-inflicted, like this Liberian Cruiser ship which hit something in the Antarctic Ocean, creating a hole in its hull, leading it to sink. Either way, not until we call the repairman, named Jesus, can we find healing.
And this is where we look at the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. In the 4th of the eight Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” This is the only of the Beatitudes where you receive what you sow. The merciful are shown mercy.