BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL, FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY
By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
I have often spoken with you about the need to forgive others of their trespasses against you. I have continually mentioned the need to forgive and then pray for your enemies, in an earnest and loving manner. We are warned in the scriptures about not forgiving others of their trespasses: "But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:15. In other words, we need to forgive in order to be forgiven. We should not withhold from our brethren something that we are asking for ourselves.
The reason I constantly remind you about this important aspect of our Christian faith is to prevent you from falling back into bad habits that can compromise you spiritually. The concept of forgiving enemies is extremely difficult, but not incomprehensible! You will find prayers of this kind some of the most difficult prayers you have ever uttered. Human nature tends to make us want to get even with those who have wronged us. Seldom do we think of forgiveness immediately after we have suffered a transgression against us. The first thing that usually pops into our minds is how to retaliate and cause the most harm and humiliation from our retaliation. I received in an email this story which graphically illustrates the point I am trying to make:
"A young student named Sally relates an experience she had in class, given By her teacher, whom we'll call Brother Smith. She says Brother Smith was known for his elaborate graphic lessons. One particular day, Sally walked into class and knew they were in for another fun day. On the wall was a big target and on a nearby table were many darts. Brother Smith told the students to draw a picture of someone that they disliked or someone who had made them angry. He would then allow them to throw darts at their enemy's picture.
Sally's girlfriend (on her right) drew a picture of a girl who had stolen her boyfriend. Another friend (on her left) drew a picture of his little brother. Sally drew a picture of Brother Smith, putting a great deal of detail into her drawing. Sally was pleased at the overall effect she had achieved. The class lined up and began throwing darts, with much laughter and hilarity. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their targets were ripping apart. Sally looked forward to her turn, and was filled with disappointment when Brother Smith, because of time limits, asked the students to return to their seats.
As Sally sat thinking about how angry she was because she didn't have a chance to throw any darts at her target, Brother Smith began removing the target from the wall. Underneath the target was a picture of Jesus. A complete hush fell over the room as each student viewed the mangled picture of Jesus; holes and jagged marks covered His face and His eyes were pierced out. Brother Smith said only these words, "Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto Me." (Matthew 25:40) No other words were necessary; the tear-filled eyes of each student focused only on the picture of Christ. The students remained in their seats even after the bell rang, then slowly left the classroom, tears streaming down their faces."
Obviously, from the student's reactions, not a one of them would have ever thrown darts at Jesus. They were directing their hate and disgust at their enemies. It felt good to the students to hurl darts at images of their transgressors. What they did not see, and were soon to realize, that by hurling darts at their enemies, they were offending Jesus Christ as well. It's been often said that it is quite easy to see the transgression, but you can never see the remorse that the transgressor feels in their heart for their actions.
A person might think that a transgression is just between you and the person that wronged you; however, both of you were created by God. God considers both of you of equal importance. How do you think He feels when He sees two of His creations choosing to ignore His teachings? Our God, Who is pure love, is forced to see two of His creations immersed in hate which is the trademark of Satan.
The first instinct we have as infants is a desire to bond with our parents in love. We mature and learn new things, and as we explore our world we pick up both good and bad habits along the way. Revenge is one of the nastiest of all bad habits. Practicing revenge has a tremendous negative impact on our spirit. We dive into darkness when we exact revenge on a fellow human being.
Jesus Christ is referred to as the "Father of Lights", in one of the closing prayers of the Divine Liturgy. When we harm our spirits by diving into darkness, we are separating ourselves from the Holy Light that emanates from God. Through our retaliation we also drive our brother or sister in Christ further away from the Holy Light of God through our actions. Usually, one retaliation leads to another, starting a vicious cycle of hate and grudges, both of which are feelings associated with Satan, not God.
To forego revenge in favor of forgiveness causes us to ascend to the Light of God. It effectively heals the wound that we received from the transgression, and brings you closer to God than ever before. The most effective way to destroy your enemies is to make them your friends, by doing so, you have gained a friend, lost an enemy, and at the same time you have obeyed a fundamental and very important commandment of Jesus Christ.
"Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." Luke 6:37 The Kingdom of God calls us to a way of life in which mercy abounds. We must refrain from judging, because the very act of human judgment precludes mercy. We must not condemn others, because it causes us to depart from mercy. We must forgive; understanding that true forgiveness can only come from a merciful heart.
By forgiving, you are forgiven, by showing mercy, you obtain mercy, by promoting love, you gain love. By practicing these virtues, you receive far greater rewards than you can ever imagine.
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