Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Change My Heart to Give Mercy

By Beth DeCristofaro

Jesus said to his disciples:  “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:27-28, 37-38)

O God, ask me now to bring my enemies into my heart and show mercy to them. Lord, change my heart or I will never become ‘a child of the Most High’. Let me spend time pondering how merciful you are to me, even when I am ‘ungrateful and wicked’. That will make me pause before judging and condemning my ‘enemies’. 

As we approach another anniversary of 9/11, this reading hits hard.  Our country has become so suspicious of outsiders, so quick to take offense over varying political or religious views and armed to the teeth with guns in the name of self-defense that I wonder if we are experiencing a kind of collective non-forgiveness.  In fact we spent years, millions of dollars and thousands of lives getting back at our identified enemy but have spent little time seeking truth and reconciliation.

Way back in college I remember an evening when I was hurt and outraged over a slight by a friend (cannot remember a thing about the incident!)  In anger I smashed an entire six pack of beer bottles against the wall of my dorm.  But even as I enjoyed my rant, I began to realize that someone could be very hurt by my actions.  Each piece of glass was picked up and put into a trash bin and I even scouted out a broom to sweep every corner of the stairwell.  It was a learning moment to encounter a potentially destructive anger inside and to choose to not let it rule me.

Within myself I still identify resistance, anger and often a desire for revenge when I’ve been hurt.   Closing my heart is much easier than forgiving.   If I am honest, I must admit that without God’s grace to open my heart, I cannot alone forgive with the goodness Jesus asks of me.   And then I remember that alone I am no longer in relationship with Jesus.  Alone I do not experience His grace and then do not recognize the good gifts given to me because they are buried under the mounds of my judgmental attitudes.  In placing myself in relationship with Him, I understand that even my enemies are invited into relationship with Him.  We all walk together.  A society is not a monolith to be saved but building the Kingdom begins with changing hearts.  As we change our own hearts we heal and we heal our country.

In observance of the Anniversary of the hideous attacks of 9/11, examine your conscience for lingering condemnation.  Ask God for a change of heart. Respond lovingly and courageously in witness to Jesus’ Gospel message to those who speak hate against Muslims, immigrants or anyone identified as an enemy. 

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