In Between the Lines & Spaces

 

The story behind the Susan Ashton classic
“Beyond Justice To Mercy”

The Great… Beyond

 

Early in my career I had a mentor, someone who looked after the business side of things. But somewhere along the way, something happened. Even after all of these years I’m still not sure when it occurred; but the bond of trust between us frayed. It unraveled like a length of over-used rope. It wasn’t pretty… but then again, no true test of character is.

They say business isn’t personal, but when the tie between us severed, I felt it; and when I experience an emotion that deeply, I can’t help but voice it.

I know we don’t see eye to eye We’ve let angry hearts flare and the bitter words fly The common ground we used to share Is harder to find but I believe that it’s still there

What happened between us was basic human nature. Still, it’s not easy to forgive. Letting the other guy off the hook, letting bygones go on by is easier said than done.

When I was a child and I did something naughty, Dad would dispense his discipline, then immediately pray with me, making sure I was reminded of God’s love, and his own. But for most of us forgiveness requires forgetting, and that’s difficult to do – especially if you’re female. We tend to remember everything and file it away for future reference.

I couldn’t forget. That disagreement day, so long ago, kept repeating in my head like an old vinyl record, scratched beyond repair. It played over and over in my mind. And with each skip back my heart ached a little more.

I don’t know if now is the time
To surrender the silence between your heart and mine
But the love that I’ve chosen cries out to be spoken
Leaving the heartache behind

In the heat of the moment too few of us recognize that split-second of opportunity. We let the moment get the best of us, allowing the ties that should bond us, to bind us.

We’re human; and the trappings of our humanity are what trip us up. We have a one-sided outlook, a limited perspective. And being mere mortals our own selfish sense of justice often blinds us to the obvious; that answer just past our logic… in the great beyond.

We must reach out beyond justice to mercy Going more than halfway to forgive

It is the challenge each of us will face at least once in our life; the effort to show mercy when we don’t feel like doing so. Sure, the act of forgiveness itself is liberating. But getting to that place – and staying there – is The Test. To pass that challenge we have to be willing to go a little further.

Our heart forgives, but our mind doesn’t forget… If we only go “halfway” there will be occasions when we’d like to dredge it all up and throw it back in their face.

If we are not willing to take that extra step we’re just pretending to forget, and our wounds only pretend to mend. If poked and prodded the bruises will just become more inflamed.

However if we are willing to go “more than halfway”, if we let go of that desire to “throw it back in their face” and give it to God. He will, in turn,throw it into the Sea of Forgetfulness, to be dredged up no more.

If we take that extra step, the forgiveness becomes genuine, and though the bruises may linger, the touchy subject will no longer be tender.

It doesn’t matter who’s to blame The love that I have for you is still the same

The word “forgive” is amazing. If you break it down, it appears to mean, “before… give.” Before it is deserved, give mercy. That’s what God does for us everyday; He withholds His judgment, and gives us grace before it is deserved. And it is never deserved.

A tender voice is calling me
To that place of compassion where hearts run pure and free
Where the hunger for vengeance gives way to repentance
Where love will teach us to see

On the cross Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of those who nailed Him there. “… for they know not what they do.” Like the lyrics of a song, His words were brief and full of meaning, and His offer was made evenbefore the deed was completed.

The forgiveness He provided that day was not just for the Romans and temple priests who conspired against Him, but for every life lived before His coming, and every soul who had yet to be born – long before our first transgression.

His mercy was so genuine, His forgiveness so complete, that even though the wounds in his hands remained, the memory of the pain was no more. His forgiveness transformed the recollection of that horrible day from a course of on-going irritation, to the ultimate source of eternal inspiration.

And though His bruises still remain to this day, they are not tender to the touch. In fact He welcomes anyone who is willing to take His nail-scarred hand.

And though the distance seems so far
The love that used to hold our hearts
Longs to take us beyond justice to mercy

We must forgive and forget, for how can we, who have been shown so much mercy, do any less? The quicker you forgive the better you feel. And when you forgive you create an opportunity to change the course of the receiver’s life, as well as your own.

The wounds I received on that disagreement day, so long ago, were not pretty. But the scars that character test inflicted were mended when I reached beyond my own sense of justice. Giving it to God, putting it in His hands was like praying with Dad. And that’s one memory I hope I never forget; that feeling of mercy beyond justice.

None of us deserve grace… and therein lies the definition.

PRAYER
Help me to be ever mindful that I should ‘judge not, lest I be judged.’ Let me never lose sight of the wonder that when I give, I will likewise be given. And remind me everyday, 70 times 70, that I should always be the first to go more than half way to forgive.

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