Mercy fuels compassion, providing promising glints of light in a darkened world. It’s kindness, forward forgiveness, and empathy. Mercy chooses not to be offended, and compassionately sees a hurting heart behind hurtful words. God’s mercy is reflected in the cross of Christ, a direct reflection of His love for us. Mercy is an extension of and expression of love, “an act of kindness, compassion, or favor.” Mercy is a characteristic of the One True God.Photo Credit:Unsplash©
What Does the Bible Say Mercy Is?
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)
God’s plan stems from His merciful love for His people. Knowing there was nothing we could do to earn our way into His presence, He made a way through the crucifixion of Christ. Defeating death, Jesus opened up access to God for us. Through prayer, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit living in us, each day brings fresh new mercy. Every morning, God is faithful, even though every day, we fall short. Mercy is God’s gift to the repentant heart. The following verses define this element of God’s love:
“You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.” (Psalm 86:5 NIV)
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5 NIV)
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What is God's Mercy?
The wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy.” (James 3:17 NLT)
God’s mercy is closely akin with forgiveness. What we do in response to God’s mercy sends an important message to the people in our lives. James is very clear in his letter that though deeds are not required to earn God’s favor, or to be a Christian, a repentant heart that loves God will surely be evident by the lives we live. In his article “Have Mercy on Me,” David Mathis says “When God shows his mercy, he does so with utter intentionality and strength, and we as his creatures get our deepest glimpse of who he is not just in his sovereignty but his goodness.”
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What Are the Benefits of God's Mercy?
“Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36 NIV)
The benefits of God’s mercy include peace, love, and joy. None of the behaviors Luke speaks of come naturally. In Christ, mercy and truth meet together. Christ-centered people see the world through His perspective, and His love flows through their lives. When we are merciful to others, it brings their hearts, and ours, joy. When we submit to His merciful ways, we choose to acknowledge peace. Apart from Christ this is impossible. Thankfully, His mercies are new every morning. Psalm 86:15-16 says, “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength on behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you.”
“Mercy” is a cornerstone characteristic of God, evidenced by its repetition in Scripture. It’s mentioned 262 times in the King James Version, 157 times in the English Standard Version, 99 times in the New American Standard Bible, 170 times in the Amplified Bible, and 146 in the New English Translation, according to Bible Gateway. However, it’s mentioned additionally as “mercies,” and “merciful.”
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Are Mercy and Grace Related?
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 ESV)
Love is the common denominator between mercy and grace. “Mercy is what gets us out of trouble,” writes Dr. Ray Pritchard. “Grace gives us what we don’t deserve.” By grace Jesus saved us, and mercy flowed from Jesus last words, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24). Mercy and grace, love and forgiveness are characteristics of the One True God, functioning in tandem as He sits sovereign on the throne of heaven. The mystery of our Triune God knits these traits together in a beautiful tapestry of redemption and restoration for all of us.
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Four Examples of Mercy in the Bible
1. The Israelites in the Desert
“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3 NIV)
God certainly chose to be merciful to His people; He loved them despite their rebellion and ungratefulness. God’s covenant with them was out of His mercy. He chose to bless them with what they did not deserve. “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” (Exodus 16:12 NIV) He answered their complaints with food, water, protection and provision. The story of the Exodus is repeated many times in the Bible, and referenced in regards to many of the characteristics of God, including mercy.
2. King David
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.” (Psalm 51:1 NIV)
David, a man after God’s own heart, slayer of the giant Goliath and chosen king, committed adultery with someone else’s wife and then had her husband killed in battle (2 Samuel 11-12). Sin has the power to overtake even the most arduous followers of Christ. Consequences will always become our reality, as they were for David, but God will never falter in His mercy for us.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NIV). David pleaded, and God heard Him. “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die” (2 Samuel 12:13 NIV). Though the consequences for our bad choices are hard and harsh, our merciful God never leaves us.
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ … And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.” (Acts 7:59-8:1 NIV)
Paul, formerly Saul, supported the crusade against Christianity. He was responsible for the death of Christians. Then, he ran into Jesus. “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ He replied” (Acts 9:5). Saul was struck blind but opened his eyes to see Jesus. Jesus’ mercy to forgive him ignited his faith and propelled him forward. Paul went on to survive shipwrecks, jail, beatings, and other calamities, all the while writing letters to encourage the churches he was planting along the way. “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1 NIV). Paul, in every letter he wrote, magnified mercy. He had experienced it firsthand.
4. The Adulterous Woman
“Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with His finger … But let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:6-8 NIV)
We don’t know what he was writing in the dust, but Jesus’ mercy spoke loud enough for all to hear and be convicted. The men scattered, and to the woman Jesus said, “’Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ ” she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more’ ” (John 8:10-11 NIV). Mercy is forgiveness and compassion extended to those who do not deserve it. The accusers and the adulterers. He chooses to extend mercy to us, and He is unchanging. We cannot fail our way out of God’s love.
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What Does Mercy Mean for Christians?
“Whenever you possibly can, do good to those who need it.” (Proverbs 3:27 GNT)
Society is entrenched with entitlement alongside the ever-prevalent needy and oppressed. We are not to sit idle. “Our natural tendency is to act in sinful, selfish ways; it is only with a transformed heart that we can truly be merciful toward someone else,” writes Crosswalk.com editor Liz Kanoy. Mercy releases human understanding in order to adopt the command to love the people He places in our lives. Rick Warren wrote, in his article, “Seven Characteristics of Mercy,” that “learning to be an agent of mercy transforms our relationships.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7 ESV)
“ ‘God, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Jesus, have mercy.’ When we pray like that, we will find the mercy we need from God,” writes Dr. Ray Pritchard. Mercy allows us to experience love, forgiveness, compassion, peace and joy, whether we deserve it or not. When we see others striving to see the other side of someone’s anger, crossing a picket line to forgive, or pulling over to help a wandering soul, then love, encouragement, and joy permeate the thick fog of confusion and entitlement. In Crosswalk.com’s “First 15” daily devotional it says “We would be wholly lost if it weren’t for the abundant mercy of our heavenly Father.” He has mercy on us, so we are to have mercy on others.
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What Does Mercy Reveal About God's Character?
“Love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” (Romans 13:10 NLT)
Mercy reveals how just and fair, yet loving and compassionate, God is. My anthem to my children is “You are always forgiven, and never loved less.”I don’t want them to associate who they are with the mistakes they are bound to make every day. Mistakes can do a number on our self-esteem if we don’t stop to breath “Yahweh” into our situations and remind ourselves we are His children.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We are forgiven because of God’s mercy. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8 NIV). David Mathis writes “God’s mercy not only shows us who he is, but also tells us something about ourselves.” We are children of the One True God. He has written our names as citizens in heaven, by His mercy.
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A Prayer Thanking God for His Mercy
Today, we praise you for mercy. How you see us for who we are, mess and all, and choose to embrace us completely. Always forgiven, never loved less. We come to you with contrite hearts, praying for the redemptive stature you desire from our hearts, and forgiveness for the sins we commit daily. The mistakes we make are endless and forthcoming, making your mercy so important to our joy and hope. Daily, your mercies are new. Daily, we can come to you for forgiveness and know that we are still loved, called, and purposed. Thank you for the sacrificial death of Christ, which opened up the channel of communication through your Word and prayer. Send your Spirit to help us understand and embrace your truth, applying it to our everyday lives. Father, bless and heal our hurts. Bring healing to the pain that touches our lives, and the lives of those around us. Remind us daily, you are good.
In Jesus’ Name,
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“Megs” writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. She stepped out of her comfort zone, and her Marketing career, to obey God’s call to stay home and be “Mom” in 2011. From that step of obedience her blog, Sunny&80, was born, a way to retain the funny everyday moments of motherhood. (https://sunnyand80.org) Meg is also a freelance writer and author of “Friends with Everyone.” She loves teaching God’s Word and leading her Monday morning Bible study, being a mom, distance running and photography. Meg resides in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and Golden-Doodle … all avid Cleveland Browns fans.