“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
What do you think mercy is? What are some ways we can show mercy to others?
When someone says something to you like, “Well, I’ll give you mercy” – they are generally saying that they are withholding some punishment or negative consequence to a poor choice or mistake that you made. They are not giving you what you deserve, but instead are showing mercy.
Read the passage found in Isaiah 1:15-20. Note how God is rebuking the Israelites for their sins, especially their lack of mercy. However, listen how He shows them mercy by not giving them what they deserve.
In the first part of this passage, God spoke through His prophet Isaiah against the Israelites whose hands were full of innocent blood, evil deeds, and injustice. God is serious about showing kindness and mercy to those who have nothing.
However, His tone changes in the second part. He says, “…though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” He is calling His people to repent of their injustices and sins so that they will not have to suffer judgment for their sins. God wants to forgive them and overlook their offense.
In the same way, we are called to have the same heart as God: willing to overlook the offenses, hurts, wrongs, mistakes, and annoyances of others against us – and extend mercy. We are not to repay people who hurt us according to their works, but according to God’s mercy.
Our Father Is Merciful
“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)
God is Forgiving
“But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not…” (Psalm 78:38a)
God has infinite reasons to withhold love and forgiveness from us, because we have all sinned and fallen short of His glory; we have all offended Him by our sins. We do not deserve forgiveness, but God is merciful.
We must acknowledge that God would be totally justified in destroying us and anyone else because of our sin, pride, and rebellion against Him. However, He, in His unfailing love, has chosen to extend mercy and forgiveness to us though His very own Son Jesus.
God is Slow to Anger
“Yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.” (Psalm 78:38b)
In the same way that God would be justified in destroying us for eternity because of our sins, he also would be justified to unleash the full force of His anger against us, here and now on earth, bringing judgment upon us for our many sins.
However, God is slow to anger. He does not take pleasure in destroying the wicked, or in punishing those who reject Him or hurt Him. He is a God of amazing love, ready to forgive, slow to anger, and quick to love.
Because we have God inside of us through His Son Jesus, we have the same ability to withhold anger and judgment from those who offend us. We have the fruit of the Spirit, called self-control. We too can show mercy toward others.
God is Patient
“For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.” (Psalm 78:39)
Have you ever heard the expression, ‘You’re only human’? To an extent this is true. If a person does not know Jesus, he or she is merely human and has no supernatural ability from God to resist the devil. But if a person has Jesus, the Living God, inside of him, he is more than human…more than a conqueror.
How does this relate to patience? We who have Jesus within our hearts have the same patience of God to tolerate, and to bear with, the weaknesses of others. This does not mean we are to condone or justify the sins of others, but we can overlook their offenses against us, and patiently endure the hurt. We do not have to hold grudges; but can, in love, forgive and show mercy over and over and over towards those who hurt us.
God is Loving to the Undeserving
“We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love. It is He who loves us first, and only then can we show Him love in return. There is nothing in our flesh that would cause Him to love us because, as Paul said, there is no good thing that dwells in our flesh.
We don’t deserve God’s love, yet He gives it to us freely. In the same way, there are many people who do not deserve our love, and yet we are commanded to love others: our enemies, our fellow Christians, our parents, the needy.
Our enemies do not deserve our love and may have hurt us deeply. Other Christians have possibly offended us. Our parents may have made poor decisions that hurt us, or have made good decisions that annoy us. Those who are needy have nothing to offer us in return for our love and kindness.
Regardless, these are people we are taught to love, just as God has loved us.
(In our next post, we will continue this discussion, speaking of the opposite of merciful and to whom should we show mercy.)