Mercy forgives, cares, and is persistent and determined in meeting the needs of another. However, that mercy must be unconditional and without expectation of recompense, for God opposes those who would do things outwardly to impress others, while their heart is far from Him (Matthew 15:7-8).
According to Dr. Ritchie Davidson, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, “Compassion can be learned. It’s like weight training. We found that people can build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help. Doing acts of kindness increases oxytocin in the brain and improves heart health, blood pressure, and self-esteem as well as lowers stress levels, depression, anxiety and blood pressure.” If parents would teach their children to have compassion for others, there would be far less bullying in schools and on social media.
Jesus often used parables to make a point. Such was the case when an expert of the Mosaic Law tried to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” [The expert] answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus responded, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” The expert, wanting to justify himself, asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then told the story of a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when robbers attacked him. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him, and left him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side of the road. Then a Levite came to the place and saw the man and he also passed by on the other side. A Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was, and when he saw him, took pity on him and bandaged his wounds and poured on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him, and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”
Jesus then asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert of law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37 NKJV). We have all been given that same commission (Matthew 25:34-46).
Another example of mercy and forgiveness can be found in the following parable. We see that the first man was the recipient of extravagant mercy but refused to extend that same mercy to another:
Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. One was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents ($7,000,000 today’s value). And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” Out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave his debt.
That same servant then went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii ($2,000 today’s value). Seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, “Pay what you owe.” So his fellow servant pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” He refused and put him in prison until he paid the debt. His fellow servants were greatly distressed and told their master all that had happened. Then his master summoned him and said, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” His master delivered him to the jailers, until he paid all his debt. Jesus then said, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:21-35).
Mercy is the ability to give compassion and forgiveness to others, because of God’s deep, abiding love for us in our ignoble condition. If God were not merciful, we would receive the full measure of His wrath. Therefore, we are to be merciful, just as our Father is merciful to us; we are not to judge or we will be judged; we are not to condemn, so that we will not be condemned; we are to forgive, so we can be forgiven; and when we give, it is given to us with good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For the measure that we use, is measured back to us (Luke 6:36-38).
There are times when showing mercy is not easy, especially if we feel personally wronged. That requires an act of our will as we revisit the cross where Jesus hung in agony. He looked upon those who had brutalized Him and then raising His eyes toward heaven, said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Though it may be challenging and even difficult, we are to be imitators of Christ by following His example of forgiveness, mercy, and compassion.
God’s great mercy and forgiveness was extended to us through His only Son, Jesus Christ, “Who, being in very nature, God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8) Jesus bore our sins in His body that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (I Peter 2:24).
We are called to extend the same mercy and forgiveness that has been provided to us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Last week’s blog, Judge Not, dealt with judgment. In revisiting that topic, we can now see that it is impossible to be merciful and forgiving, if, at the same time, we are judging that person.
Lord, forgive me for having withheld mercy from (Name the person) whom I had deemed undeserving of mercy and forgiveness. I realize that I entered into that very dangerous place of judging others. Again, I ask for Your help to see people as You see them, so that I may become a conduit for Your mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. In Jesus name, amen.