Have you ever been accused unmercifully? Whether we have been rightly reprimanded (like the woman found in adultery in John 8:1-11) or falsely accused (like Jesus on Good Friday), we feel terribly invalidated when we have to endure condemnation without forgiveness.
If there is any validity to the accusation, if our sin is genuine, feeling remorseful does not make it easier to accept the harsh reactions of others, so our first instinct is to defend ourselves rather than admit our guilt, and we try to rationalize away or minimize our sins. We want to protect ourselves from a crushing sense of guilt.
Does it really work, though? No, only mercy can protect us. Only mercy can validate our worth. Without it, we try to manipulate people into liking us and approving of us and affirming us. The more we sin, the more desperate we become for other people’s approval. And the more desperate we become, the less remorse we feel for what we’ve done wrong, because remorse is a feeling that says we deserve disapproval.
To fill the emptiness and heal the wound, we must know that we are forgiven and accepted for who we are.
When we are falsely accused, we feel no less empty and invalidated. We are at the mercy of others and they have rejected us. Their opinions still matter to us. We hunger for affirmation. We tend to defend ourselves and offend those who accused us, which converts our innocence into selfishness and pride and unloving behavior.
To fill this emptiness and heal this wound, we must know that we are protected by the mercy of God.
No one can validate us like God can. In truth, it is only God’s opinion of us that matters. He alone knows what is in our hearts. He alone loves us no matter what we do.
Mercifully, He says, “I do not condemn you. I love you. Sin no more, but be assured that avoiding sin is not a requirement to receive My love.”
When we grasp the fidelity of God’s steady, unending, fuller-than-full love for us, we are freed from the need to be validated by people. And when we are freed from this, we become free to love others even when they sin. We become like Jesus, full of compassion and mercy, saying to those who sin against us, “I do not condemn you. I forgive you.”
Forgiveness is an act of mercy, not of justice. Repentance purifies us and helps us grow in holiness, but repentance is not a requirement to receive God’s love. Likewise, we forgive others not because they repent (some never will), but because God has been merciful to us. As we have received mercy, we give mercy.
© 2002 by Terry A. Modica
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