Today has been a day of strong emotions: of deep gratitude to God for his work in me and in the ministry I am blessed to be a part of, and at the same time a strong awareness of my sinfulness and my need for God’s mercy. In these last few days God has answered several of my prayers for which I and others have been praying for a while. One in particular has to do with Him working in and through a conflict that I am not directly involved in, but it is among people I deeply care about and who are serving in ministry together. In the midst of a difficult situation and some painful confrontations, God is helping all people involved to see Christ in each other, to extend God’s grace to one another and to hear and respond to God’s call for them to draw closer to Him. Praise God! Wouldn’t it be great if all conflicts had the same result? My role in this has been very small, mostly that of prayer and listening to, challenging and encouraging some of those involved. My response has been praise and thanksgiving to our Father in heaven, for I am aware that He is the only one who can change hearts and produce good out of even painful things.
Another prayer of mine has been for God to be at work in those who are participating in the violence prevention course called Project Change that Mary, a church leader, and I are facilitating in a Covenant church. In our third session we looked at healthy and unhealthy relationships and the factors that influence our understanding of what a healthy relationship should look like, especially between a man and a woman. In a culture where machismo is quite strong, it was encouraging to see both men and women in the group discuss their understanding of marriage and how it sometimes is more influenced by their culture than Scripture. This class was last Wednesday and today I was still singing praises to God for confronting us with His Word so that our relationships may better reflect the values of the Kingdom of God.
As I was preparing for leading devotions with my missionary colleagues during our meetings this week, I read Romans 2 and felt convicted of my tendency to judge others. Verse 1 says, “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things”. Even as I was praying for others, the truth is that I don’t always respond in a healthy way to conflict, and I certainly am influenced by my own culture in my understanding and interpretation of the Word.
I decided to connect Romans 2 with a reading from Richard Rohr called “Why we need to say ‘Lord, have mercy’!” He says, “Note that when you do not stand under mercy, your mind almost certainly does one or all of three things: plays the victim, accuses others, or falsely exalts itself. When you honestly ask for mercy, you make all three of these responses unnecessary and, in a way, impossible. ‘Lord, have mercy’ makes your identity a totally received one (just like the persons of the Trinity), a gift of grace, and nothing that you need to protect or can claim as your own.”
I thank God for helping me today to recognize my complete dependence on the Holy Spirit in order to do any good thing, which has allowed me to be grateful rather than proud when I am a part of God’s work, whether in a big or small way. And I thank God for helping me to see that “God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance” (Rom. 2:4b). And so, today I cried out Kyrie Eleison, Lord, have mercy, even as I praised and thanked Him for answering prayer and the privilege of being a part of God’s work here on earth. May I be able to live with gratitude and in the arms of God’s mercy tomorrow as well.