The Big Lie about mercy
If we get the Big Idea of Mercy Season, it protects us from the Big Lie, which is,
"What is wrong with the world is a few bad people and groups, and we good people ought to shame them, break their power, and make them pay for what they did."
This lie has some truth to it. Like bad apples, a very few bad people can spoil a lot of things for everybody. It is not good to tolerate that spoilage or pretend it is not serious.
However, if "goodness" is about uniting the good people to punish the bad people, we are stuck with three nasty tendencies:
Arrogance. We "good people" accept no blame for any of the world's problems; they are 100% the fault of the "bad people"
Judgmentalism. When we make harsh judgments of "bad people", we claim we are not being judgmental, only giving an appropriate response to intolerable evil
Insensitivity. More and more we see life as an impersonal power struggle between "good people" and "bad people", and we get consumed by the "fight for goodness" that we thought was a good thing.
Arrogance, judgmentalism, and insensitivity. If that is what “goodness” does to good people, isn’t it better not to be so “good”? Or at least if you are going to work to make the world a little better, don't get too caught up in your cause. The more involved you get, the more arrogant, judgmental, and insensitive you become, and who needs that? So billions of people either do not work for any cause or they only give a few dollars now and then.
All that is perfectly sensible if the Big Lie about "good people" and "bad people" is the truth. But what if the Big Lie is a big lie? What if the real problem with the world is not a few bad people or groups? What if the real issue is the badness in all us “good” people?
What "badness" would that be?
The same badness that put Jesus on the cross in the first place--refusing to give him control of what we control, continuing to manage our own lives in our own interests. He wants to recruit us for his campaign, but we don't want to sell out to it.
We want business as usual, with us staying in charge. Perhaps we try to fit Jesus in somewhere to help us toward some of our goals, but we operate as if we are the king in our lives and he is not.
When we realize how that badness infects even the best of us, the Big Lie will never fool us again. Some of us "good" people own up to our share of the problem, accept God's mercy, and show mercy even to the "bad" people. Some of the "bad" people also accept the mercy, and the "good" and the "bad" people who accept the mercy of Jesus unite as the "transformed-by-mercy" group.
If you SYNC (See Yourself iN Christ), you realize you are in that group. That’s how evil loses control of the world. The lie is exposed. The Big Idea of mercy takes over.
How you can tell if you are falling for the Big Lie
Very simple. If you reserve the right to decide who you will and won't forgive, you are falling for the Big Lie.
For example, if you say, "I could never forgive that," or, "I will never forgive that unless they apologize and make things right," the Big Lie has you. You see yourself as the victim, and you claim the right to make somebody pay for what they did. They are wrong, you are right, and that is that!
If you fall for the Big Lie, you will have lots of company, of course. People think and talk like this all the time. They can't imagine things any differently. But they don't realize that this common way of thinking makes many people miss out on God's mercy themselves.
When we get victimized, the pain can be so bad that we don't think about anything else. We want the quick fix of not forgiving those people, and we forget that God is running a long-term campaign for healing which is supposed to include us as his mercy agents.
When we do not forgive, when we say forgiveness is unthinkable, or they don't deserve it, or whatever, we are falling for the Big Lie and setting ourselves up against God's campaign! We would never do that in normal times, but we find it very tempting when we feel the pain of being treated like dirt.
The Big Lie wants us to forget all about God's campaign and concentrate only on the pain that some bad people have caused us. The truth is that God cares about those people. We only care about what they did to us. We are out of SYNC with God and his campaign of mercy.
So how do we get back in SYNC? Try harder?
Jesus knew this was going to be hard for us. That's why he so clearly built his long-term fix into the pattern prayer he taught his campaign team.
That prayer keeps lifting our eyes from our own pains to his campaign. It elevates our goals in life so we don't waste our days trying to get even. We think less about our rights and more about our assignments as mercy agents. We even quit hoping our victimizers will get what they deserve and start hoping they get what they obviously don't deserve--mercy.
Notice how cleverly Jesus has helped us with this prayer. Instead of telling us to try harder, to grit our teeth through the pain, he creates a magnificent distraction--his campaign. The prayer turns our attention to his campaign to save earth from itself, and our pains slide into the background almost without us realizing it.
And besides the prayer, we have a powerful image in our minds, a mental picture of Jesus dying on a cross, epitomizing God's mercy for a world that didn't deserve it. It is impossible to imagine Jesus thinking at that moment, "This is so unfair! I will never forgive these people."