The Roman world in Jesus’ day did not show a lot of mercy. Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and raised the dead. He was the friend of sinners. He forgave prostitutes, tax collectors, and religious rulers. He took children in His arms and blessed them. He showed mercy to everyone and in return they attempted to stone Him and united to kill Him. The world was a place of violence and intimidation, but not mercy. Just like the other beatitudes in which Jesus promises blessing for living in ways contrary to our nature, He says in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Before we can be merciful, we have to understand what it means to show mercy. James 5:11 says, “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” Lamentations 3:22 says that it’s through His mercies that we are not consumed. Mercy is not just something God demonstrates but it is who God is. God shows us mercy by not giving us what we deserve – hell. God in His mercy sent Jesus to us when we were dead in our sin. Jesus did not come to us with a ladder and say climb up and save yourself. He left the glories of heaven and came down to earth where we were. He lifted us up from the miry clay and set our feet on the solid rock. Jesus was fighting for us even when we were fighting against Him. He adopted us into His family. He filled us with the Holy Spirit and gave us spiritual gifts with which to serve Him. According to Romans 12 one of those gifts is mercy. Mercy is not optional for the Christian (Micah 6:8).
Mercy is more than a feeling. It is showing compassion. Mercy is compassion on the inside in action on the outside. It is food to the hungry, comfort to the sad, love to the rejected, forgiveness to the offender, and fellowship to the lonely. In Luke 10 we read the story of the good Samaritan as Jesus explains what it means to love our neighbor. As you may recall, a priest and a Levite both walked past the hurting man. But then, a Samaritan man stopped to help him. “‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Lk. 10:36-37). Mercy is always being willing to do your part. The good Samaritan was not afraid to get his hands dirty. Mercy extends to all people. The good Samaritan took pity on this man who was at his worst. Mercy costs us something. Oil was the best medicine he had, and wine was used to kill infection. Oil, wine, bandages, room and board cost money. The good Samaritan was willing to pay the price.
Who has hurt you the most? How do you feel about those who are on the opposite side of the political spectrum? What race or people group do you hold ill will toward? Has someone disappointed or abandoned you? Mercy enables you to forgive those who have hurt you. Joseph forgave his brothers and provided food for them. David extended mercy by sparing Saul’s life. We are able to extend mercy because we have experienced it. The greatest example is the cross. Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus paid the penalty for our sins that God might be merciful to us as sinners.
In Luke 18 a man beat his chest. Why? He knew the real problem was on the inside. He knew religion only tries to clean up the outside. God cleans up the inside. He prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (v. 13). Aren’t you thankful today for God’s mercy to us? Aren’t you thankful that He offered us the greatest gift when we least deserved it? Let’s remember the great mercy we’ve been shown and extend that same mercy to others to the glory of God.