"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy"
This truism from Jesus at least sounds, on the surface, true. But when you dig a little deeper, the same disparity between the world's way of thinking and Jesus' begins to emerge.
We have a tendency to think Jesus is saying to be loving to other people and they will be loving back to you. But that is not what Jesus is saying. Jesus is saying that there is great blessing in not demanding the full measure of justice from those who wrong you. He is extending what he said earlier about mourning. There is more blessing if you keep going down this road and actually forgive the person who hurt you.
We are so often able to focus our hatred and bitterness at the one we feel is responsible for our wounds, pain, and loss. Jesus states that you are more blessed to let go of that bitterness. Grant that person mercy. Don't you be their judge, jury, and executioner. Let God deal with them.
There are numerous verses in the scriptures that give tips for forgiving people. Four that I have found especially effective are:
Luke 23:34: Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Jesus is speaking this verse from the cross and He is asking God the Father to grant forgiveness to His executioners because they really don't know that they are killing God -- that they are killing the only perfect human who ever lived. They were just selfishly looking out for their own interests. They were just doing their job. Most people who wrong others do not think about all the consequences about their selfish choice. They are only pursuing what they want. Even heinous sins are often just a person trying to get what they want.
Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. This verse reminds us that God is able to bring good out of even the worst stuff that happens to us. What we have to begin to focus on is the good that God is doing or may want to do. I have found that when I can encourage a person to write down twice as many ways that God is or could bring good out of this difficulty, then the person is able to focus away from the negative impact of the difficulty. Now it is important not to say that the thing is good, only that God could bring good out of it.
Romans 12:19-21: Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord. "But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. This verse has been very effective in helping people let go of their many plans for vengeance. The problem with their plan is that God seems to take a step back with His justice while we pursue ours. But if we hand it over to Him and get out of the vengeance business, then he will step up. I have known many people who have been scheming and plotting all kinds of ways to get back at the people who wronged them. It may be the silent treatment. It may be gossip behind their back. It may be active plans to stop or oppose them. Stop all of this. Tell God that you are leaving it in His hands. Of course you can make suggestions to Him in prayer, but let Him deal with any form of justice or lessons or fairness.
Matthew 5:44: Love your enemies. Do not only use love as a defense against those who oppose you, use it as your weapon on those who oppose you. There is a tendency to retreat from those who have actively opposed us or actively seek to harm us. But instead of just using the love of God to protect us from these enemies, Christ calls us to actively love them. It takes His power and His grace to do it wisely but actively seek to meet real needs in their lives. This does not mean that they will become your best friends. But you will use Christ's love for them and your desire for their best as a weapon to change them. Obviously this aggressive style of love would not necessarily apply to enemies who are still capable of violence, imprisonment, or death.
These kinds of people need to be loved but with a different form of meeting their needs. But to seriously escape the gravity of our normal self-focus and love those we find the most difficult is a prompt that would only come from God. This is Jesus’ command to go the second mile and give the person the other cheek to slap. This type of forgiveness overcomes the normal bitterness with a desire to bless. Jesus keeps this idea going when He says, "bless those who curse you," "pray for those who persecute you," "do good to those who despitefully use you."
These are four ways to begin to develop a forgiving and merciful heart. It is down this road that blessings flow. It is not on the path of bitterness that we find health, wholeness, and joy.