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Mercy for the Unmerciful

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“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7

One of the most difficult things to do as justice-seekers is to pray for the perpetrators of injustice, showing mercy to those who, in our human estimation, deserve no mercy. We are humbled by the words of Jesus in this Beatitude as we remember that he showed us mercy when we ourselves deserved none. And he has called us to do the same.

Jesus went to the cross for the sins of all humanity. In one great act of mercy, he fulfilled the greatest act of redemption and justice. And this is the example he sets for us and reveals to the world within us – we are called to be ministers of his justice and his mercy. We are compelled to show mercy even when it seems undeserved.

IJM’s President, Sean Litton, explains:

“When there is a conviction in one of our cases, when someone is actually found guilty and they are forced to deal with the reality of what they’ve done and now the consequences of it, it’s never a happy moment.”

“The abuse that they were committing was destroying the people that they were abusing, but it was also destroying them. And the hope then is that now that they are forced to confront it, they’ll repent of what they’ve done. They’ll find healing, they’ll find forgiveness, and they’ll find a new life. But that’s up to them; those are their choices to make.”

We must always remember the human faces of injustice—that slave-owners and rapists are men and women just as we are. But, while we acknowledge their human flaws, we are caught in the tension between showing mercy and advocating for justice on behalf of those they have abused. This is where God calls us to pray for his wisdom and mercy in the world.

Meet Liana

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic—Liana’s mother left when she was too young to remember. Her father died in an accident when she was 8, so Liana was raised by her grandparents.

When Liana was still a child, her mother would visit her. “Everything went well for a time,” Liana remembers. “She treated us well, with lots of love.”

The summer of her 14th birthday, Liana traveled to her mother’s town to reconnect with her. They had fun, and she moved back in with her mother.

Almost overnight, the house became a prison. In one of the most disturbing cases of sex trafficking IJM has encountered in the Dominican Republic, Liana’s own mother enslaved her and began selling her to men for sex.

Liana’s stepfather, truck driver, hauled Liana to men around the country.

When Liana got away and back to her grandparents’ house after nearly five months of sexual and physical abuse, she told her grandparents everything.

Within weeks, officials arrested the woman and referred the case to IJM. IJM’s legal team worked with local prosecutors to put her captors on trial.

IJM’s investigators helped police search for the fugitive husband, who remained at large for more than a year before he was arrested in April. Liana was brought to a safe house run by IJM partners. IJM’s aftercare team provided Liana with counseling and trauma-focused therapy.

Recently, she began the process of writing a letter to her mother in prison. And after all of the hurt, pain and abuse she suffered from her mother, her response is one that only comes from God’s grace.

“Everything has changed since I told the truth. I told my story in court and I told the truth. It was very difficult. However, I know that if I had not done it I would not be able to heal. Thanks to the help of IJM, I am well.

My body is healing and my heart as well. I am learning to love myself. The fear that I felt is disappearing and I am continuing forward and I am overcoming everything that had happened to me.

Mother, I forgive you. It is difficult to see you in jail, but I hope that you can get better. I believe that you can change. Your body also can heal. And that which was broken can be restored. Your story has not finished and neither has mine. I continue to be your daughter and you continue to be my mother. I have new hope.

Your daughter, Liana.”

Discussion Questions

  1. What does it mean to show mercy in your life?
  2. How does God call us to respond to those who persecute us? What does Matthew 5:44 say about this?
  3. How can you pray for people like the man who abused Liana?
  4. What makes extending God’s mercy while revealing his justice difficult in your life?

Prayer Focus

  • Pray for the abusers and perpetrators of injustice around the world to repent of their crimes and seek redemption in Christ.
  • Pray for the aftercare workers counseling the victims. Pray for the survivors to reach another place of healing by learning to forgive their oppressors.
  • Pray for a merciful heart, that we would be able to forgive and love others in light of the mercy and love we have received.
Posted by Alyssa Shibata at 6:00 AM