What’s in a Word? – Mercy

This may sound weird to say, but I love showing mercy. I know that can tend to sound high-horsey, religious, or like I’m inviting trouble, but I promise it’s none of those things! There is just something in my mental and emotional wiring that has a deep appreciation for the powerful effect mercy has on others. I guess I see it like this: there are few things that are a better witness of the redeeming love of Jesus than when we choose compassion and mercy where retributive justice would be possible, especially when the other person is fully aware of that possibility.

I see it this way because I’ve experienced it; from broken valuables to missed deadlines to sharp words and outbursts, I gave my mom more than her share of opportunities to be merciful as a kid. One incident stands out—more clearly for her than me—yet in knowing it, I realize how this one moment shaped my entire viewpoint on mercy; the way I see it and how I show it.

After a particularly long day, the dinner dishes were done and the kitchen was finally cleaned up. It was time for you kids to finish your chocolate milk, brush teeth and settle in for bed. For some reason, you took the lid off your sippy cup and were frantically trying to get it back on before I rounded the corner – and it slipped! There was chocolate milk everywhere – cabinets, stove, countertops, floor, walls – nothing escaped.

In the split second between my formulating something about how you’re not to take the lid off your sippy cup and deciding how many beanie babies would be quarantined and for how long, I was interrupted. What came out of my mouth instead was, “WOOPS! Good thing we have more Hersheys!”

You kinda looked at me puzzled, but I remember we laughed together about it & you helped with recon while you finished your second chocolate milk.

This incident was one of a thousand, all indicative of the model of mercy my mom showed me growing up. Aside from some very well-deserved banishments to my room and pops on the butt, what I always recall experiencing during my growing-up tantrums was grace upon grace. Her discipline operated from a place of love whether I received punishment or mercy, and I always remember that as hard as it was to ‘fess up when I did wrong, there were so many times I received mercy where I could’ve just as easily had my beanie babies put in quarantine—or worse!

It’s shaped my whole worldview, honestly. It’s made me default to mercy when I’m faced with being wronged, because I know the relief, the sense of love, and the deep urge to do better, be better, and grow as a person that comes from realizing you’ve been given a second chance.

When people ask why God would be merciful to sinners, I often think of the lesson my mother’s love taught me; that rather than seeking to take advantage of her mercy when I was in the wrong, that mercy freely given made me yearn to become the best version of myself. I thoroughly and unequivocally trusted the love behind her mercy and wanted to live a life deserving of it.

So it should be with us and God. This is what I mean by the witness of mercy, why it is so valuable that we keep a healthy perspective on our offenses and what we are owed when someone wrongs us. When we’re willing to let go of a hurt or something due us and show mercy to others, we are in that moment living a godly precedent, showing by our actions the very way our Creator is with us.

And what a powerful lesson that mercy can often be.

What is Mercy?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines mercy as “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.”

While grace and mercy are sometimes used interchangeably to convey God’s relationship with us, they are actually very different things. Whereas grace is undeserved divine favor and involves the bountiful blessings God has lavished on us despite our many shortcomings, mercy is the way that God withholds the punishment we deserve for those shortcomings.

Grace and mercy are equal aspects of our relationship with God, however. He has mercy on us despite our sins, and in His grace, he goes above and beyond – not only does He show forbearance, He even blesses us and bestows gifts on us despite how we fall short!

What Does the Bible Say About  Mercy?

Romans 11:30-31 – For just as at one time you defied God, but now have received mercy as a result of their disobedience, even so they too have now been disobedient, that by the mercy shown to you they also can now receive mercy.

2 Corinthians 4:1 – Therefore, since we have this ministry, just as we received mercy, we are not discouraged.

How Can I Become More Merciful?

Much like with grace, we give because He first gave to us. God has showed us mercy and we in turn should be merciful toward those who wrong or offend us—not seeking absolution for our own satisfaction, but extending the sort of mercy that reflects the nature of our God.

So in order to become more merciful, we first recognize our humble position and the mercy God has bestowed on us when we’ve sinned against Him; then we extend that same godly mercy out to others who have wronged us, recognizing that there are times when a show of mercy does more for the Kingdom of Christ than vengeance ever will.

Ultimately, the strength and maturity to be merciful rather than vengeful comes from a place of understanding our own status with God and recognizing that if He can forgive us for our shortcomings, we can extend forbearance and forgiveness to others.

Take Action!

Is there a situation in your life where you could afford to show mercy to someone who’s wronged you? How will you go about being merciful this week?

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1 comment

  1. Great example on the impact of parenting, modeling the Word for children. Wonderful…Proverbs 6:20-22 lives!

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