What makes mercy unlovable?
Blessed are those who show mercy
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 struggled with in the past. We feel their pain; we know their hurt and we groan, ache and mourn with them because we know EXACTLY what they are going through. 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 is a roadblock. It’s not that familiarity is mandatory for mercy, but a 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.
Micah 6:8 says, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV).
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.
Think about Jonah – a man, no, a PROPHET who was reluctant to preach a message of reconciliation and warn to a people of what was to come 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 simply can’t relate to their situation. You have never struggled with what they are struggling with, so you are calloused, uncaring and slow to give mercy. Mercy is a 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 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV)
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, after all, is sacrificial by nature.
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 do what they should have done, yet they deserve 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.
There are things in which we delight. Those things, whatever they may be for you, are things we are drawn to. We yearn for these things and position ourselves to be immersed in them. Those various delights are occasionally carnal in nature. At times they are spiritual, righteous and holy in nature. Either way, the things that we want and the things in which we find delight are often the same.
Perhaps you delight in golf, in cooking, in eating or in travel. When you delight in something it consumes your thoughts. You’ll spend hours researching the best putter, the next vacation spot or the latest cookware to make a delicious dish.
God’s delights are immutable, steadfast, reliable … and He delights in MERCY. He is drawn toward mercy. He looks for opportunities to provide mercy. He is invested in mercy, most notably seen in Jesus’ sacrifice.
Mercy is not a passing fad. It’s His driving motivation. His love commands that mercy be His extension.
If you have a fractured relationship with God, it’s likely because you do not have a proper understanding of how passionately He desires to forgive and relent. To know God means that we accept the possibility of wrath but find comfort in the truth that He desires mercy to be His anthem, and He desires you give mercy just as aggressively.
Every one of us can look back on our lives and select dozens of reasons we should be disqualified from the race. The problem is we selectively forget our worst actions and choose to remember our best intentions.
If you want to receive mercy, then you must begin showing unreasonable mercy.
If you want God to be merciful to you the next time you make a mistake, start by treating everyone else with mercy.
If we fail to mature in this way, we may find ourselves quickly acquainted with our former selves with our mistakes openly seen by all. This is not a fear tactic. This beatitude is as much a warning as it is a blessing. It compels us to receive the pardon but only if we commit to passing it on. Mercy, so easy to receive, yet so very, very hard to give. In the context of Matthew 5:7, giving mercy and receiving it are inseparable.
What happens on the other end of mercy? Unity.
The idea of the Kingdom of God was never a solitary one. The Kingdom of God was never meant to be experienced alone or expanded through individual efforts.
We are stronger together (Ephesians 4:12).
We are better because of each other (Proverbs 27:17).
The rights of self are surrendered when we come into relationship with Jesus.
The fear is often the loss of self. The very thing that restricts our activity is the very thing we cling to so desperately. To lose self means to lose our individuality. This is a fear of many, especially when we fully follow Jesus.
But we do not lose individuality. We simply find a greater way to succeed by connecting our individuality to a greater purpose. We connect our individuality to the individuality of many others and the result is a lot of individuals who are not individual at all.
We become one, as all individuals focus on accomplishing the same goal. Each person provides their unique personalities, gifts, talents and abilities. Those very items which were once used to advance self are now used to advance God’s Kingdom. We are one; we are unified, and we are fueled by mercy.
We must guard this unity vehemently. It is our heavy-handed responsibility to protect and foster a unity that is not quickly broken, if broken at all. Unity is our strongest weapon.
The unity of God’s people is what drives the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, Paul stresses that we make every effort to keep this unity through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3-6). Scatter your army; you’ll see its weakness. Gather your army and you’ll see its strength.
Be one who unifies, who builds up, who blesses others and you’ll be the one who advances the Kingdom of God. Beware however, because the opposite outcome is always lurking.
Show mercy and unity, and you’ll find – in Christ and with others – it will make you the recipient of the same mercy. You give not to get, but when you give according to His Word, you can’t help but receive.
Click here if you missed Part 1, and here if you missed Part 2 or here if you missed Part 3.