Are we to forgive be for forgiveness is sought? Is it a waste of time to forgive someone before they’ve repented of their offense? Why do these questions even matter and what do they have to do with me? Many a Christian’s life verse is from Proverbs chapter 3; in fact it usually combines two verses:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Two wonderfully powerful verses indeed, but I want to look at the two preceding verses:
“Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3-4)
Yesterday we saw the Apostle John describe Jesus as “full of grace and truth,” and today we see King Solomon counseling his son to not forsake “mercy and truth.” As we’ve seen, truth by itself can be a sledgehammer destroying everything in its path. Solomon says we are to write mercy and truth on the tablet of our hearts. Why? To “find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.”
So Bro Dave are you saying we should measure what we say so it will be acceptable to those hearing it. No, of course not. If we leave out God then we are already in trouble, no matter our efforts. But if I will be a man of mercy and truth, driven by my desire to please God and to have Him give me favor and high esteem, the people who matter will follow along.
And yet I should still be mindful of how I use the truth and how it affects others. I should also understand that if I use the truth as a means of retaliation, then I am not only hurting the other person, but I am also hurting myself:
“The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.” (Proverbs 11:17)
When the Bible speaks of malice, it is denouncing wickedness and habitual depravity. Random House Dictionary defines malice as a “desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another, either because of a hostile impulse or out of deep-seated meanness.” As a legal term it defines it as an “evil intent on the part of the person who commits a wrongful act injurious to others.” All three definitions add up to someone being mean, rather it be intentional or unintentional.
I am forbidden by God through His Holy Word to ever retaliate and yet it is my nature to do so. But both Old and New Testaments give clear instruction against retaliation:
“Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause, for would you deceive with your lips? Do not say, ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.’” (Proverbs 24:28-29)
This means I am not to get involved in endless quarrels or disagreements that only end up in my feeling offended and the need to retaliate. In fact the Apostle Paul says I am to do the opposite:
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15)
So what is the Lord trying to teach me today? He is warning me, pleading with me, to guard my heart particularly when I unsheath the sword of truth. Even in battle I am to be merciful and “pursue what is good both for” me and for others. A malicious heart is a wicked heart that pumps the poison of bitterness through my soul and spirit like emotional cancer destroying me and everyone in my path. That is not being Christlike; that is being like Satan.
In my humanness I am always susceptible to being malicious. Through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit I can always be merciful.
The choice is always mine.
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Copyright © 2012 David Jeffers