Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, dedicates his life to achieving equal justice for people who suffer excessive punishment in the legal system and have no one to help them pursue the opportunity of a more promising future. His remarkable work grows from his foundational belief that “each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” He says, “I believe it’s necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice . . . we all need some measure of unmerited grace.” These principles, embedded in his heritage of faith, sustain him through long, difficult years when his efforts meet with disappointment and failure. His work is hard, but he perseveres.
Forgiveness as a way of life requires dedication and daily discipline because it runs counter to our self-centeredness. Desiring mercy and forgiveness for ourselves is easy; granting this gift to others is difficult. Enmeshed in a culture that rewards self-centeredness, we tend to disregard what others need. Changing self-centered ways is hard to do on our own.
Paul encourages those who follow Jesus in Colossae to become a community of compassion. Within the church they are to encourage one another to divest themselves of selfish, sinful ways. Christ followers must be known as a fellowship of mutual concern and forgiveness. Forgive each other, Paul counsels, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive (v. 13). Within such community, Jesus’ attitude and actions become the model and motive for our own. Blessed, indeed, is the person who is part of a congregation committed to restoration rather than rejection, forgiveness rather than judgment.
Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy (New York: Random House, 2014) 17-18.
Is your community of faith known for its mutual concern and compassion? What could you do to help it become more of what Paul envisions?
God of grace, teach me to forgive others as you forgive me. Make me aware today of the judgmental attitudes and actions that I need to change. Amen.