Jesus, in his earthly ministry, was continually showing mercy to others. When criticized for it, he told his critics to be about showing mercy, too, instead of finding fault and hurting others with their harsh judgments and actions. Just what is this mercy that Jesus encouraged? What is its place in the Christian life?
Mercy is compassion and forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to harm. It is acting on true concern for another when that concern is not, in an earthly sense, required. Mercy is not an automatic reflex of the human character. It is often buried and thwarted by such things as a desire for vengeance or a “holier-than-thou” attitude. Mercy is a non-utilitarian action. It is granted without anticipation of a return.
Fake or pseudo mercy, in contrast, is for the purpose of putting someone in debt. A person shows fake mercy so someone will owe them. Real mercy, on the other hand, is an act of selflessness.
If you are looking for an earthly reward, fake mercy is what you want to show. But if you are looking for spiritual growth, for working in the kingdom of God, then true mercy is what you need to show others.
Mercy is hard. It is hard because it requires self-denial. There is irony in Jesus’ words to some harsh judgmental people: “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’” (Matthew 9:13) Mercy, in fact, amounts to the most severe form of sacrifice there is: self-sacrifice.
But why can’t you just leave this matter of mercy to the Lord and content yourself with other things? That is because by showing mercy you are doing what God wants you to do. You are doing his will. John 3:16 could be paraphrased: “For God so loved the world that he showed mercy to it.” God does show mercy to you. He invites you, in turn, to show mercy to others so they will experience his love through you.
Christian discipleship really makes no sense without mercy. What integrates Jesus’ words and deeds and makes them consistent and effective is the perpetual theme of mercy, the great compassion and forgiveness he showed to all. Mercy is the binding glue.
The depth of our Christian life is actually directly proportionate to the depth of our participation in mercy. Mercy is not to be some abstraction. It is rather to be something we show in our daily lives as God has shown it so wonderfully to us.
So, even though there is no earthly requirement to show mercy, from the standpoint of Christian growth, there is nothing more practical. It is so practical that it must be practiced in order to be understood. So let’s learn by practicing Jesus’ statement: “I want you to show mercy.”
Spreading, Serving and Sharing with You,