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March 17—Lent Devotional 2013

As you read and reflect on today’s beatitude, please listen to this track from contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. We will feature this track throughout Lent.

The Beatitudes

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Matthew 5:7


For Jesus, being merciful always encompasses being ready to forgive (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; 18:35). Jesus wants us to be done with keeping score on others, so that we can be ready to embrace generous forgiveness. Jesus’ command, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”, is immediately followed by another command: “Forgive” (Luke 6:36-37). He wants us to forgive even as we have been so graciously forgiven by Father God.

Theologian Lewis Smedes comments that “Forgiving comes naturally to the forgiven” (Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve). Throughout Scripture God’s forgiveness becomes the impetus, the stimulus for our forgiving those who hurt us: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Just as showing mercy opens us up to greater experiences of God’s mercy, so granting forgiveness helps us experience God’s forgiveness all the more. N. T. Wright comments on our need for showing forgiveness in order to experience God’s forgiveness more fully:

 If my heart is locked up against forgiving others, then it will be locked against receiving God’s love. Forgiveness is more like the air in your lungs. There’s only room for you to inhale the next lungful when you’ve just breathed out the previous one (Matthew for Everyone, Volume 2).

Roman Catholic priest and therapist Fr. Richard McAlear also writes about the healing power of forgiving:

[Not forgiving] blocks the flow of healing. If there is resentment, bitterness, and unresolved anger in my spirit, it clogs the spiritual arteries and healing love cannot flow. It is like a spiritual stroke and it is deadly (Forgiveness: Experience God’s Mercy).

 We must never wait until we feel like forgiving before we forgive. Forgiving others, just like showing mercy, is not a feeling, but a decision we make, an act of the will. We make a choice to let go the need to get even, or let go the need to hurt them like they hurt us. We put all that into God’s hands, who alone has the right to seek vengeance (Romans 12:19). Then we discover the truth of what Lewis Smedes wrote: “When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free is us” (Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve).


I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.“—Isaiah 43:25

  • Spend some moments reflecting on God’s forgiveness of you, and give thanks.
  • Do you sense the Spirit of God speaking to you today about a person you need to forgive? Are you ready to make the decision to let go the desire to get even, and to leave all that to God? If you are not yet ready to forgive, why don’t you ask God to give you the grace to become ready to forgive?
  • What do you want Say To God?

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