He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”Micah 6:8
“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.”Zechariah 7:9
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings”Hosea 6:6
“Be merciful, just as your father is merciful”Luke 6:36
Throughout the Old Testament, God speaks of His desire for His people, who are called by His name, to demonstrate His kind of mercy. He desired them to show mercy more than bringing sacrifices, more than performing rituals or religious acts. God wanted them then, and us now, to imitate Him in this way.
When Jesus came on the scene we saw firsthand what mercy looks like. You see, mercy “can be characterized as compassionate treatment of those in distress. Whether the distress is caused by the guilt or penalty of sin or by a debilitating physical condition.” Mercy, demonstrated by Jesus, looked like forgiving a woman caught in adultery when the law commanded she be stoned (John 8:4). It looked like welcoming and befriending tax collectors and “sinners” (Matt 9:9-13). Mercy is hard and messy and can make people mad, especially when they feel like someone deserves punishment.
For us, extending mercy could be as simple as getting cut off while driving and giving that person the benefit of the doubt. It could look like forgiving and not punishing your 16-year-old for taking out the family car when they weren’t supposed to. Sometimes, it can be as difficult as forgiving someone who has hurt you, knowing reconciliation may never be possible.
Let’s do a little exercise together:
Stop for a moment and try to remember a time when it was in your power to extend mercy. What was that like? If you responded to the person mercifully, reflect on why that was. If you did not, do the same. Take some mental notes. What enabled you or prevented you from extending mercy? Spend some time with Jesus and ask Him to open your heart to what might have been going on under the surface of that interaction.
Sometimes, extending mercy takes practice. On our own, giving mercy is impossible to do. The beauty is we don’t have to do it alone! Not only did Jesus show us how to live a life of mercy and compassion, He also sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to live it out!
- Read Luke 6:27-36. Jesus is giving a master class on mercy in this passage. Before you begin to read, pray and ask the Lord to help you recognize where you may need to demonstrate a God-sized dose of mercy and compassion. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to live a life of love and mercy that can only be done in His power.