The title came from James 2:13 (HCSB), "For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn't shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment." The NLT version says, "There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you." Wow! I see the big target across my chest, and I felt the piercing arrow of God's conviction when I read it. You see, there was someone I needed to show mercy and it was long over due.
Five years ago, I had a friend I believed would be a friend for life. That is until romance happened. My friend had never had a romantic relationship before, and to say she completely lost her mind is an understatement. We had been friends for eight years, and suddenly, I was expendable. She was a part of a couple now, and we all know about the universal law that says if you are part of a couple, your single friends are no longer necessary. I mean, what does a woman, who now has a partner, have in common with a single woman?
Over the course of six months, she went from ignoring me to carefully planning ways she could hurt me. She didn't feel compelled to maintain our relationship, but I wasn't supposed to go on with my life. I was supposed to sit at home and wait to see if her romance worked out, and if by chance it didn't then we could pick up where we left off. When other friends tried to intervene, they too found themselves on the wrong side. They were supposed to hate me because she hated me now. Within a year, she had alienated all of her closest friends. She made one weak attempt at an apology, which went something like this: "I'm sorry I hurt you, but we both did things we shouldn't have done." I confess I didn't feel gracious and mercy didn't triumph. I walked away deeply wounded and began working through the stages of grief over this lost relationship.
It took a long time to forgive her, and an even longer time to be willing to show mercy, but God didn't let up. He kept working on me until I started to feel more compassion toward her. Just after Easter last year, I sent her a card and explained how much she meant to me, why I had walked away, and apologized if I had hurt her. I felt better even though I didn't truly feel I owed her an apology.
God wasn't finished yet. By Christmas, I had reached a point to where I felt I could actually be friends with her again, and in my Christmas card to her, I wrote how it would be great to see her. She didn't respond, but I didn't really expect her to.
Then, I started the study of James. I realized, I needed to show her mercy. First, because that's what Jesus would do, but secondly, mercy would free me. As I thought about this, I realized that while my life had gone on, and I had been blessed with two new friends that I so enjoy being around, I still had room in my heart for my old friend. I didn't trust her not to hurt me again, but I was willing to take that chance.
So, I began inviting her to things. I invited her to a movie we showed at church. She didn't respond. Next, I invited her to join me and my friends for dinner. The last invitation was the key. As soon as I sent the email to her, I felt something inside that I can only describe as God's happiness with me. I found myself smiling because I felt as if God were smiling, and it felt good.
Several days passed and then I got an email from her. She thanked me for the invitations, but indicated she wasn't interested in renewing our friendship. She didn't want to be hurt again.
I felt some sadness, but no anger or bitterness. I emailed her and thanked her for responding and letting me know how she felt. I said I understood because I knew how hard it would be to rebuild the trust we once had. I said I was disappointed, but I would look forward to renewing our friendship when we both reached Glory. I closed by saying I knew God was fond of her and so was I, and if she ever changed her mind I would consider it a beautiful thing.
Perhaps, she will change her mind some day. I doubt it. But, this showing mercy wasn't really about her at all. It was about being obedient. It was about being like Jesus. It was about giving someone something they hadn't earned. She deserved my mercy because God showed me mercy. She deserved grace because God showed me grace.
By allowing mercy to triumph over judgment, I set myself free. Something God knew would happen the minute I could say I will show you mercy.