Applying Mercy in Practice (ii): The 80-20 Choice
Even on the night He was betrayed, when He was breaking bread and giving it to the disciples, Jesus still gave thanks. (1 Cor. 11:23-24) If He can give thanks at a time like that, what does His example have to say to us in whatever it is that we are going through?
I have some suggestions to make to help us cope with the things we find less immediately attractive in each other. Suppose we have a friendship in which we cope well enough with, say, 70 or 80% of the way our friends (parents, husbands wives, colleagues) are, and the things that they do, but find perhaps 20 or 30% of their behaviour irritating. It is tempting to focus only on the irksomeness of that 20% – and from there it is only a small step to wondering if we aren’t fundamentally incompatible. At the very least we are likely to become increasingly tense and ‘short’ with each other. What happens next? We risk letting these feelings spiral into resentment.
There are undoubtedly times when it is right to challenge wrong practice or hypocritical attitudes – and then other times when wisdom lies in steering a wide berth around them, (Tit. 3:10) but even then this must still be from a place of the Lord’s leading and mercy rather than out of anger or vindictiveness. Far more times than not, all that is needed is to reaffirm all the positives in the relationship, and to refuse to allow each other’s weaknesses and inconsistencies to provoke a separation. Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else, forgive him. Indeed, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive. (Col. 3:13)
The Lord has told us what He requires from us: to do what is right to other people, to love being kind to others and showing them mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah. 6:8 EXB). It is the spirit of gratitude which enables us to be truly thankful for so much that is so good, and to look for ways to work around the more challenging issues.
Lord Jesus, it is the humble You love to walk with – not those who insist on always being the ones in the right.
Draw me up short when I stray from the spirit of thanksgiving – especially when I become het up about minor matters and spiral into resentment and frustration.
Don’t let me get away with such negativity!
Bring about whatever change of attitude is needed in my heart so that I focus more on the 80% than the 20%.
Shape, fashion and rewire me wherever it is need to draw me deeper into the spirit of thanksgiving. In Jesus’ name help me lift my eyes above that which is flawed and imperfect, and the things that irk and irritate me to contemplate instead the good things.
Right now I give you the matter of . . .
and . . .
Finally, let’s ponder slowly on every word of Paul’s brilliant reminder in Philippians 4:4-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The Lord is near!
Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.