When was the last time you witnessed a merciful act? Can you recall a moment when your heart melted at the sight of unconditional love and grace towards someone who may not have deserved it? Mercy’s current definition in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary reads as: “(the) kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly.”
In Webster’s 1828 dictionary the definition holds even more depth.
“That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice will warrant. In this sense, there is perhaps no word in our language precisely synonymous with mercy that which comes nearest to it is grace. It implies benevolence, tenderness, mildness, pity or compassion, and clemency, but exercised only towards offenders. Mercy is a distinguishing attribute of the Supreme Being.”
I’m amazed at the 1828 definition.
I never considered mercy as only exercised towards offenders, had you? When we are in a family, a community, or even apart of a church family for example, Mercy comes in all shapes and forms. When I’ve snapped at my teenaged son and he hugs me instead of snapping back. When I’ve taken a daughter’s privilege away because I believed someone else’s word over hers, grounded her, and she forgave me. When my husband and I have argued or a friend and I have disagreed, and we’ve made the effort to reunify–mercy shows up. Whenever I’ve personally experienced or shared mercy’s goodness–I’m the one that’s experienced change. God’s mercy on Calvary reminds me to give what I’ve received. For me, mercy says I’ll stay and I’ll care even though I want to run or take revenge. I’ll die to my own desires, choose to see you and value you, as Christ see’s me. I’ll love you in spite of our own personal imperfections only because Jesus showed me how–He set the perfect example.
I remember those moments like yesterday, when God asked me to extend mercy while suffering, rather than sever the very last binding thread in the relationship. Believe me, I can still picture that thin scarlet thread in my minds eye–the one that held my marriage together, the one that allowed my father to remain in my life, the ones that test boundaries in relationships, and the one that preserved our commitment to serve people in ministry.
I now see what mercy accomplishes and the fruit that grows from it.
When our situations become overwhelming, and they may at some point, I believe God will help us choose mercy–if we ask Him to. I also believe He’ll show us what to lay down–anything that may hinder mercy’s flow. He may show us our pride, judgment, bitterness, perfectionism, anger, and the like, and we will have to make a decision. The question we’ll have to answer is–is He worthy? Is Jesus and His sacrifice worthy of ours and the effort it’ll take? In these dark days, may we the Church return to truth, our Savior, and devote ourselves to praying for His love, mercy, forgiveness, and courage. Let’s never forget, His plan hasn’t changed and He still wants to shine though us by His grace–all for His glory.
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement
of God rather than burnt offerings.”
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”