"Fire From Heaven"
Find the Mercy to Forgive
Have you ever heard the tale of Prometheus the Titan? While the gods lived in luxury on Olympus, Prometheus visited the humans. He saw their joyless lives, as they huddled in cold, dark caves on the edge of starvation.
"If only they had fire," he thought, "they could rise above this sad desperation. They could cook food, light their way at night, and keep warm." He asked Zeus to grant the humans this gift, but Zeus wouldn't have it.
"They're too ignorant, they'll burn themselves down," Zeus said.
So Prometheus took matters into his own hands. He stole some fire and brought it down in a stalk of fennel. As the myth goes, his compassion changed the world.
Looking around at the way most of us live, it seems the masses still live cold, dark lives, unaware of the warm light available. When we get exasperated with people, maybe we should acknowledge that most people don't realize what they're doing. It's not an excuse, but it is a tragedy. When Jesus saw people's ignorance, he found compassion.
"And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him … And Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'" (Luke 23:33-34).
Like fire from above, he brings this gift down to us — warmth for the undeserving, light for us fools. But what if instead of "forgive them...they know not what they do," he said what most of us say?
"I've Got My Own Problems"
If anyone should get a pass for absorbing themselves in their trauma, it's Jesus. He could've said, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9). But as his body throbbed and his heart broke, Christ's concern for people never waned. We all have our own load to bear (Gal. 6:4), but we also "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2).
"They'll Get Theirs"
Jesus could've said, "may the LORD avenge me against you" (1 Sam. 24:12), but he interceded for his tormentors. Someday God will avenge evil (Rom. 12:18-21), but how much better for our enemies to know the pain of godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10) that leads to grace. Do you pray for mercy for those who hurt you?
"For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (Jam. 2:13).
"They Should Know Better"
Jesus could've said, "you have no excuse" (Rom. 2:1), but he asked God to remember that they didn't know better. Ignorance is a prison most people don't even realize they have locked themselves into.
What do you say when people hurt you? If we can find the grace to pray Jesus' words, again and again, it can change our attitude toward other people's offenses and our commitment to their salvation. May we find compassion for folks in darkness, praying for them even as they turn on us. Like stolen fire, may Christ's words leave our "hearts burning within" (Luke 24:32).