Pope Francis opened Saint Peter’s Holy Door yesterday to start the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

I’m torn on how excited I am over this celebration. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of unity and forgiveness and joy concerning the faith and our relationship with others and Christ.  

But the idea of the Year of Mercy makes me very uncomfortable. My very twisted human heart does not want to give mercy to others.

I love receiving mercy myself, but giving it to others who have hurt me? That’s a whole different story.  My selfish desires keep tugging at my heart, whispering “No, you don’t have to forgive.  They hurt you.  Remember what they said? Remember what they did?  You don’t have to give that up.  Just let those wounds sit for a while longer.  You need time to work through that.”  
Ironically, I’ll rejoice and happy-dance my way out of confession, singing “A thousand times I’ve failed, still your mercy remains”….yet I’ll replay ways people have offended me a thousand times over, and begrudgingly grasp onto the power and control I feel that I have by not forgiving them. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s quote “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness” is re-quoted over and over and over, but the reason for the repetitive aspect of this saying is that the concept is so applicable to the life we’re living. It is easy to sink into routine, comfort and commonality. It is when we leave our comfort zone that our relationship with God become real and active. 

How is God making you uncomfortable today?
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your GOD ask of you but to fear the LORD your GOD, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

Christ calls us to love Him with a radical love, especially when it is uncomfortable and when He is calling us to something tough. He is calling us to love Him with all of our heart and soul without even the tiniest bit of us left lagging in desire for His will in our lives and in the lives of others.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves other has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8)

Ultimately, Christ calls us to be perfect as His Heavenly Father is perfect. This does not mean that we are going to be perfect in the sense that there is no way we could be better or develop further in our faith life. Our perfection is found when we are fully alive in the person God created us to be. Fully dedicated to His plan in our life, and willing His will above our own.

But that fulfillment of His call for us means that we have to love others like we love ourselves. We’re made in the image of God, and so are those who have hurt us…despite what we think of them or what they’ve done to us.  Without the beauty of forgiveness, we’re owing others the debt of love and denying ourselves the beauty of perfection in a life lived fully in conjunction with Christ and His plan for our lives. Those who have hurt us are still brothers and sisters in Christ…and no amount of pain that they have put us through could ever nullify that identification. They are worthy of an authentic love just as much as people who are nice to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” (Luke 60:30-35). I’m not pretending this is going to be easy for anyone. Honestly, writing this post is like a knife to the heart that keeps twisting around with every additional word that I type.

Forgiving someone and admitting that I’m holding a grudge means having to admit that I’m wrong. And for someone whose biggest struggle is pride, that is not an easy pill to swallow. 

The extreme irony is that by withholding forgiveness from someone, the person who is really taking a brunt of that hurt is ourselves. We’re piling even more hurt, pain, and regret onto ourselves as a result of our pride. We’re withholding ourselves from the freedom experienced after recognizing a pain but not holding that against another human being who is loved by Christ and redeemed by the cross just as much as we are.
Then there is this realization: Forgiving someone does not mean that everything will melt away in a sea of contentment and peace. Forgiveness cannot hinge on a persons’ reaction or lack of acknowledgement of forgiveness. That’s another direct hit to pride – forgiveness of someone who has caused pain may just be between you and God…there may not be closure. Yet if you’re wanting the offender in your life to come to you, say they’re sorry and accept your forgiveness on bent knee, it’s time for a gut check, because you’re not forgiving for the right reason. Instead, you’re continuing the vicious cycle of control found by holding a grudge and forgiveness over someone.
Forgiveness is not as much of a reaching out to another person for closure here on earth, but instead a reaching up to Christ with an acknowledgement of pain and a cry for Him to help with this burden. You fully forgive someone by not just wanting their good but willing their good.

There is a distinct difference in “wanting” someone’s good versus “willing” someone’s good. Let’s put it into a different context and explore that concept real quick.

I’m a college student, here in my senior year, and as can be expected from a perfectionist such as myself, I want good grades.  I like seeing a well-rounded transcript and I track my success in college, however faulty this is, by the number or letter at the top of my papers.  I want good grades.  But I can want good grades and not get them.

Just like the cat that I’ve asked for Christmas for the past 17 years of my life and never got.  I wanted that cat to be under the Christmas tree and was sure each year that this would be the year of the Christmas kitten.  Nope, not yet.  {Cough, Mom if you’re reading this, there’s still fifteen days to fulfill that wish}  I really wanted that cat – yet even that strong desire did not magically make a kitten appear.

Instead of just wanting those grades, or wanting the Christmas kitten, I have to will it.  Will – an active verb which requires action both in the future and the present.  I will good grades – meaning that I have a goal in mind and I’m going to do what is required to achieve it.  Studying, talking with classmates, being present for class, visiting the office hours of my professor, taking lecture notes and turning in assignments are all ways in which I actively will good grades.

That active “willing” applies to forgiveness too.  You cannot passively say, “Yeah, I kind of forgive them and want their good.”  That doesn’t work – quit with the cop-outs that mean nothing but lip service.  And don’t think I’m blatantly calling everyone else but myself out on this subject – this blog post is written to myself just as much if not more than it is written to be read by you.  

WILL someone’s good – that means action.  The action required is forgiveness. Let it go.  His mercy is His to give, and not your’s to deal out among His children. 
“And the land owner replied to one of them, “Friend, I am not treating you unfairly.  Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage?  Take what is yours and go.  I want to give this last man the same as I gave you.  Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me?  Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20: 15-16).  
If you look inward, you’ll find that you are just as much in need of God’s mercy and love as the person who has hurt you.  You honestly have more in common with them than you think – you’ve both fallen short of the glory of God and tripped yourself up in sin.  The response to that fall is your choice (thank you free will!) and you can hold onto your pride and implode, or you can give that up and watch the trans formative power of forgiveness in your life.
Do not consider yourself to be the one who has worked in the field better or longer than those who have personally hurt you and are in need of your forgiveness.  Do not wish that the person who hurt you to not be treated with mercy because that is not how you would treat them.  In doing so, you completely discount the fact that God can treat your enemies with the same love, compassion and concern that He treats you with, despite all the times that you have personally messed up.
Quit being jealous of God’s generosity in the life of His children.

Give the gift of forgiveness this Advent and Christmas season, truly celebrate the Jubilee year of mercy in your life, and Be Not Afraid. 

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