Matthew 12:6-8 But I say to you, One greater than the temple is here. 7 But if you had known what this is, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice," you would not have condemned the guiltless. (Hosea 6:6 ) 8 For the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.

Does anyone really know what mercy is? Have you actually experienced it to the point you know that the relief is so deep and so overwhelming that you did not "get what you deserved" you wanted to faint with it? What's the worst thing you ever did and did not have to suffer the consequences of you action?

I'm not going to confess my worst thing here because, in my experience, Christians seem to think that the sin is greater than the person. The sin defines the person forever. How many people wore black-face and recently were called to resign because of it? (Not that I believe wearing black-face is a sin. There is a world of difference between theatrics and derogatory mocking.) How many politicians and preachers admitted to adultery and were called to resign? How many have been accused of something, been exhonerated of it, and yet still suffer the consequence of public shunning? It's like there is no mercy in the hearts of man these days.

I was watching the news there was this young girl whose dad had been murdered and the reporter asked her what she was hoping for. She said she needed the murderer to be given the death penalty and even that wasn't good enough for her revenge. This wasn't the first time I've noticed this. On those 48 Hours Murder-She-Wrote type shows where they explore murderous crimes, the families of the victims almost invariably have a deep seated bitterness and unwholesome anger which they express with tears and gritted teeth.

What good does that do? Not one slender whit, which happens to be much smaller than a splinter, by the way.

Mercy and forgiveness are valued by God much greater than sacrifice is. If the Hebrews had learned this... the Jews had learned this, then they would never have turned from Jesus. Therefore, how can we be different? Mercy is that thing that God gave us while we were still sinners. Forgiveness is what He gave us as He watched His Son go to the cross.

According to most of the world, that is impossible. I look around and see so much hate and so much unforgiveness and bitterness. What is so sad is that most people cannot see unforgiveness for the cancer it is. How much energy is wasted by harboring hatred and unforgiveness. It does not mean that we have to fraternize with those who have hurt us, nor do we have to allow them the opportunity to do it to us again. Jesus said to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).

How do we do that?

First be willing to let go of the hurt. If we keep rolling that hurt around in mind, nurturing the anger, nursing the hurt, reveling in the injustice of it all, stewing in it... we are merely playing into Satan's hands and opening our armor for the fiery dart of bitterness. Make no mistake, we can hide our feelings from friends and loved ones, but we cannot hide them from Satan. He knows our weaknesses and exploits them to the hilt of that dart.

There is the sting.

Not the hurt from the betrayal or the hurtful words or the lack of support. Examine that and see if it is really as bad as it feels. Sometimes, we blow things out of proportion and add importance to nit-picky things. Oh, come on, you can think of at least one time when you did that. I can think of a dozen. I am not belittling that really huge thing like infidelity. Been there, too. That kind of anger takes several years to work through. But, oh how great freedom felt when I finally let that last bit of anger go.

Second, decide to give mercy and to forgive. It absolutely is a decision. Just like deciding to lose weight or quit smoking or deciding on a worship lifestyle instead of a worldly lifestyle.

Third, understand, depending on the severity of the hurt, it will take lots of time. We have the Holy Spirit inside us and we have the mind of Christ, but we are not God. It takes a lot longer for us because we've got so much more to influence us. The world, our friends and acquaintances who "egg" us on.

Fourth, set the thoughts of anger aside. Paul said to get angry but do not sin. Anger is over some injustice, either real or perceived. God does not hurt us. He may discipline us and chastise us for our unruly behavior, but He will never harm us or hurt us. It is our pride that gets hurt so often, and when it is bruised, it is painful. So setting aside the thoughts also includes setting aside pride. It only gets in the way of forgiveness and sets a flame to anger. The key here is resisting the thoughts such as, "She hurt me and she's got to apologize for it." See it on TV all the time. In order to set things right the person must apologize. That's ridiculous.

Of course, we want the person to recognize the hurt they caused. We want this so the action won't be repeated. But saying "I'm sorry" doesn't really do anything for either side of the hurt, although it does seem to acknowledge there was a hurt and the one that caused the hurt recognizes it and feels bad it caused hurt.

MERCY is not getting angry in the first place. Mercy is not allowing the hurt to become more important than the person we love. Mercy is allowing people to be people warts and all and loving them inspite of their capability to hurt.

I learned this lesson this past month. A person I love very much hurt me and I stupidly got angry, mouthed off, and slammed the phone down without finding out the full extent of the reasoning. A month passed before I realized the anger was spoiling a precious relationship and it was ALL my fault, although I tried to pin it on the other person. I was wrong.

People are more important than their actions. More important than their actions because God thoughtfully created each one of us, but we are human and are influenced by wordly things and thinking. When we are hurt we absolutely must back off and allow God to handle the situation.

God does not like it when someone messes with His kid. His vengence is so much wiser and so much better than ours ever could be, so if the person causing the hurt needs discipline, God will take care of it. God justly handles unjustness.

The question here is how can we expect mercy and forgiveness from God when we harbor unforgiveness toward a brother or sister in Christ?

It is commanded that we forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ anything. That hard verse comes to mind. Forgive or your Father in Heaven will not forgive you. But a much better one expresses God's heart.

Luke 6:37 Judge not, and in no way be judged. Do not condemn, and in no way you will be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and good measure will be given to you, pressed down and shaken together, and running over, they will give into your bosom. For the same measure which you measure, it will be measured back to you.