What a joy it would be to echo with confidence that receiving mercy is natural and giving it just as intuitive. But mercy has an inherent problem.
We find mercy most accessible and most freely given when it is cradled in familiarity.
We don’t have to try very hard to exhibit grace and mercy for those who are experiencing in the present what we have experienced in the past. We feel their pain, we know their hurt, and we groan and ache and mourn with them because we know EXACTLY what they are experiencing. We wish we could take the hurt away, but instead we must stand idly by and assure them that their experience is not eternal. We can do this because we are familiar with their pain. After all, the recovering alcoholic is able to care most deeply and understand more profoundly the struggles of the drunkard than the person who has never had a drink.
Familiarity creates a direct path for mercy yet ignorance offers a roadblock. I’m not saying familiarity is mandatory for mercy, simply that lack of familiarity can be a hindrance.
This is mercy’s greatest challenge. To exist, thrive, and multiply regardless of color, creed, sex, or sin. Within the book of Micah is one of my favorite verses:
“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
Mercy is an intentional forbearance shown toward an offender. An act of kindness or favor to one who through deed or merit does not deserve it. Mercy exhibited by Jesus on the cross was a divine blessing and mercy offered through us is a divine favor with no return date.
But if we are instructed to love mercy, what makes mercy unlovable?
If we’d made similar mistakes, we find that direct path toward mercy to be far easier to travel. However, if we cannot relate, we encounter the roadblock. We clamor for life change and celebrate transformation until we come face to face with the fact that mercy abides at the starting line of true restoration.
I think about Jonah. A man, no, a PROPHET who was reluctant to preach a message of reconciliation and warning to a people because he could not relate to their plight and was disinterested in their salvation. He was not like those at Nineveh and became depressed seeing God’s compassion.
Many of us have been there. We feel a person who has wounded us deserves destruction. They deserve pain and suffering and rejection because of what they’ve done. You may be right. They may deserve it.
Or maybe you can’t understand their situation. You have never struggled with what they are struggling with so you are calloused, uncaring, and slow to give mercy. Mercy is wonderful thing to receive, but a frustration if it is given at our expense, as Jonah so depicted.
It makes God’s declaration that much more compelling. How are we to LOVE mercy?
Paul stated, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” (1 Thes 3:12).
It’s the “everyone else” that gets us. “Each other” signifies familiarity. “Everyone else” indicates unfamiliarity. Our love is not to grow for one and not the other. It’s fascinating that love is limitless yet retains the ability to grow within us. To what extent? To the extent that we love mercy as much as Jesus loves mercy. Mercy is sacrificial.
To love mercy is to lay down our lives for the unfamiliar over and over and over again. They may not look like you, act like you, smell like you, or done what you would have done (or what they should have done), yet they are deserving of the Father’s love because of Jesus sacrifice. Unlimited love became the path to unreasonable mercy.
Maybe it’s time that we love mercy just as unreasonably