It sounds pretty simple – be merciful, just as God is merciful to you. With the measure you use, it will be measured to you. And Jesus teaches us to pray
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Luke 11:4a
But it can be so hard to actually do it. Maybe we can forgive the crazy Boston driver who cuts us off in traffic, but could we forgive the one who actually crashed into us and caused lasting harm? If even forgiving the little things takes an effort of will, how can we forgive the big things? Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery. When we are faced with God’s demand that we forgive even great evils committed against us, we realize how much we need the help of the Holy Spirit. On our own, we are powerless – our sinful hearts call down curses on those who hurt us. Fortunately, we are not on our own. Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, to produce the fruits of repentance, to pull the logs out of our eyes, so that we may see all people through the eyes of God, who delights to show mercy. For evil will not be overcome by evil – we will only overcome evil with good.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Genesis, chapter 50, verses 15-21:
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
The Epistle lesson is from Romans, chapter 8, verses 18-23:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity is from Luke, chapter 6, verses 36-42:
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.