“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 NLT
When we moved into our apartment last summer, I wasn’t sure if I would like apartment living. I thought it would be fun to get to know a variety of people, young and old, single and married, working and retired. Maybe there would be some young moms that I could mentor. Hopes and dreams…
John, is my closest neighbor. I see his door when I open mine. He is single (divorced), lived in my old neighborhood before he moved here 5 years ago. He’s eccentric and persnickety. The day I found him scrubbing stains off the concrete in front of his door indicated that this man likes things neat and tidy. Over the months, I have taken over a plate or two of home-baked goodies in an effort to be neighborly. We had a passing, friendly, relationship.
Until two days ago.
I noticed a piece of paper stuck in the ground in front of our two apartments. He had written it notifying us that he was going to report anyone who did not clean up after their dog. It’s a $100 fine. I immediately knocked on his door to tell him that Rusty, our dog, uses that area and I always pick it up. Mark can’t do it due to his falling on the gravel so I go out later and take care of it. We usually let Rusty out in the late evening before bed or very early morning. I would later pick it up and dispose of it. Other times during the day, I take Rusty for a walk. That wasn’t good enough for him. I had to pick it up immediately regardless of freezing cold or dripping rain.
The next morning, Mark let him out early and at 7 am the door bell rang and it was John glaring at me and complaining. I couldn’t believe it as Rusty had been outside just 15 minutes before. Later, I dropped a note by his door and asked for a little grace and promised to do my part. Nope. He wrote me a scathing note back.
Enough of this writing business. I knocked on his door in an attempt to make peace. He would have none of it. There was no grace, only the letter of the law and he had contacted management to report it all. As I look back, I would call his comments harassing and threatening and by this time he was yelling at me that he would put the poop on my door and slammed his in my face, I WAS FURIOUS!
I fumed as I sat down and wrote to the manager about the horrible situation, wondering if we were going to have to move. Would anyone come to my defense? After hitting the send button, I returned to the living room to watch TV with Mark. As I sat there, I knew that I didn’t want this kind of thing to continue and how could I show the love of Jesus to this man.
I had taken some homemade chocolate chip bars out of the freezer earlier. I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, “Take him some bars.” I got up (before I could argue with Him), and placed a couple on a plate. I couldn’t believe how calm I was feeling because I had been in internal mess a few minutes earlier. I rang his door bell and when he opened it, I just handed him the plate. At that point, he completely backed down. He was sorry, I was sorry. He agreed to compromise and drop the whole thing. I gave him a hug and started crying. We parted in peace.
Later I was scrolling through Pinterest and saw the picture posted above. The dictionary definition: Mercy – compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. Judgment – assume the right to judge someone, especially in a critical manner.
I always struggle to remember the difference between grace and mercy. My shorthand version is that with grace, we get more than we deserve. With mercy, we don’t get what we deserve. By the grace of God, I had shown John mercy. I had listened to His leading and a potentially broken relationship was restored. At some point, he may listen to me tell him about Jesus.
Tears dripped down my face as I related it all to Mark. I was so happy that this conflict had been resolved. I could go to bed praising God for His love and guidance.
Yes, mercy triumphed over judgment.