“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
When I am wounded by someone, especially by someone that I trust and love, there is a piece of me that wants to lord it over their heads, to remind them that I have something on them, to hold them accountable and make them pay. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying it’s real. I like the act justly bit in the Micah verse. I think I could be pretty good at it. Of course, I think what I’m thinking of as “justice” is more accurately termed “vindication,” so perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to sign up. In any case, if fair recompense was required, I think I would be okay with it.
Romans 12:19 says: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord.” I think I can get on board with that. “Leaving room for the wrath of God” sounds promising to this little vindictive streak of mine.
But what about loving mercy? I’m reminded of the story of Jonah, who was told by God to go to Nineveh and warn the people to repent or else God was going to wipe them out because they were evil. Know what Jonah did? He got on a boat and sailed the other way. Know why? Because he was afraid that if he told them to repent, they would, and then God would forgive them and not wipe them out. They wouldn’t endure His wrath for their wrongs. God would extend mercy. Know what happened to Jonah? He got eaten by a big fish. God has a way of redirecting our vindictive and disobedient hearts.
I’m a lot like Jonah. I think I’d be okay with a little “wrath of God” on those who’ve wronged me. But I want to love mercy more. I want to want those who’ve committed a real wrong against me to be led to repentance and to receive forgiveness, not just from me but from God, too. I want to be forgiven for the wrongs I’ve committed. The Lord extends that forgiveness to me when I come to Him. He restores me when I’m broken and sorry. How can I not desire the same for those I love? Even for those I don’t?
And in the overwhelming largeness of God, I realize that there can be no mercy without justice. Because for mercy to work, a wrong must be committed and confessed. It must be seen as wrong. Otherwise, what this world calls “mercy and grace” is just shallow and chaotic permissiveness. To love mercy, we must in fact act justly. And that calms the fury of this heart that can’t find it in myself to excuse some of the wrongs I’ve seen. But maybe, with a little help from our Great God, I could love mercy, could offer forgiveness and pray for them to be led to repentance and to be restored to fellowship with our Lord. And maybe the next time I’m wronged, I could leave room for the justice and mercy of God, praying they find the grace of God instead of the wrath. Because of this I’m sure: they will find His grace or they will find His wrath – they will not find in God a license to sin, and He’ll not offer a shallow “It’s okay.” I’m His daughter and He will not excuse sins committed against me. But oh, that He might forgive them. And maybe the greater miracle – that I might rejoice when He does.
It’s going to take a work of the Holy Spirit. It’s going to take the Helper residing in me to break my vindictive flesh and soften my calculating heart. But isn’t that what He is there for? Isn’t that what He desires? So I’m asking for a miracle… To love mercy.