So I have been reading again…
The book in question is titled The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. And before your pull out your tinfoil hats, it’s not that kind of conspiracy. In fact, the book is more about the Sermon on the Mount than anything. Now before you replace your hat with a neck pillow, Jesus’ talks are often much more interesting than what passes for a sermon in your mind.
Willard also talks about prayer -especially the Lord’s Prayer. And one particular phrase has jumped out at me the past week. The phrase, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Willard makes the case that a more modern translation might say something along the lines of, “Have pity on me, as I have pity on others.”
At first, much like your reaction now, my thought was, “Pity? What need have I of pity?” (And yes, read that in your best English accent.) We certainly like the idea of mercy better. the word mercy, as Willard continues, often has a connotation in modern times of, “I just need a break. I’m no so bad.” However, in ye olden days, mercy was a plea of someone in the direst of straights, nearly at death, begging and sobbing for just a few more moments to bargain. So, nowadays, pity seems to be a better word.
But doesn’t it just grate against your mind? It did mine. It bothered me for a week… that is, until I put some thought into it and realized, “Oh, I am being a rather stubborn, prideful, pitiable creature right now, aren’t I?” And that’s when it hit me. It’s hard to forgive others when we don’t really feel like we need all that much forgiveness. When we’re of the mindset of, “Oh, God, just cut me a break here, I’m not all that bad,” everyone else’s failures and impositions on us suddenly look like egregious mortal sins of the highest caliber… even if they just happened to forget their blinker on I-75.
But things change when I put myself in a mindset of being pitiable. When I am receiving pity and forgiveness from God, I understand the magnitude of my own failures and mistakes. I realize the things I’m not forgiving myself for are because of my pride wanting to erase my own mistake without admitting it to anyone.
The story of the unmerciful servant springs to mind. (Matthew 18:23-35) For some reason, the first servant, despite his massive debt, felt himself entitled to that forgiveness, and was unable to show that same forgiveness because he may not have realized the sheer magnitude of pity shown on him. We look at that man and say, “How undignified and cruel!” Meanwhile, we often fail to notice that same behavior in our own lives.
Living in a state of pity allows us to stand in the love of God, aware of our state, but also acutely aware of the great, mighty, unquenchable fire of a love that God sustains us with. With that knowledge in hand, we can then begin to forgive others. We can admit our mistakes to others, to our kids, knowing that we are pitiable, but loved.
I have had to admit mistakes this week in regards to how I handled some situations. In doing so, I had to remember that God loves me regardless, and that he extends pity that extinguishes pride. I had to let go, admit my mistake, and begin working with others in order to create a better environment. Before, I wanted to blame others and get angry, but I realized that if things were going to heal, I would have to let go of all of that and accept things as they were and work to set them right.
Have you ever had to admit a mistake to a child, or even your own child? How did that feel? How did it affect your relationship? How could your family begin to create an environment where mistakes are shared, forgiven, and healed?