There is a story about a teenage boy who was a compulsive liar. If deception was paint he’d be considered a world class artist. His mother once found a letter from his teacher hidden behind a bedroom dresser. She confronted him with the teacher’s charges and the boy painted such a picture of deception--it would make the “Mona Lisa” look like paint by number. The letter was in her hand, she shook it in his face, and he denied it existed.
One day the boy lied to his best friend Frank. Hurt deeply when his friend denied it, Frank carried a grudge for months. One day they were arguing, the way kids do about something unimportant, and the grudge reared its ugly head. In a moment of self-righteous anger--Frank swung a baseball bat at his head. In an instant, he became judge, jury, and quite nearly, executioner.
Jesus cautions us against acting on personal grudges. He says,
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matt. 7:1-2 NIVO)
Frank’s judgment was terrible and he wouldn’t wish it on anyone--especially himself. But there was another reason for him to be sorry. After being betrayed, Frank was consumed with the evil of bitterness and the need to retaliate. That was harmful, but the remorse he carried for the rest of his life was worse. Perhaps this is why Jesus also taught,
“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.” (Lk. 6:35-37 NIVO)
Seems to me, this story is not just about how we treat others. To practice mercy and forbearance, and to forgive--is also about how we treat ourselves. It is about our mental health, and our spirit. To be merciful and to forgive is at the heart of what it means to be Christian. And it’s at the heart of peace.