“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” 2 Corinthians 4:1
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
Do a search in the Bible on the word ‘mercy’ and it pops up throughout the old and new testaments. The term mercy, like grace, is thrown around a lot in church circles – as it should. The Bible reveals both as foundational characteristics of the God we serve.
However the question I ask all of us is, “What is it to be merciful”, and maybe just as important, what is it not?
I was a little hesitant to add the 2 Corinthians and Romans verses above as they started with the word ‘therefore’. As a result one is compelled to ask what passages do these verses follow. I didn’t want to get bogged down explaining this, however on reflection they could help us answer these questions.
In the Romans passage, Paul effectively uses the phrase ‘by the mercies of God’ as a summary to all that precedes in this epistle, which by the way is no walk in the park! You could argue that Romans is the most theologically rich book in the whole Bible, giving us the most thorough explanation of the Gospel or Good News that Jesus Christ bring to us all. Yet Paul summarises it by simply drawing people to the ‘mercies of God’.
The same occurs in the 2 Corinthians passage.
The Most Beautiful and Blessed Message
These verses follow Paul’s articulation of the Gospel in both letters. He has just explained how by God’s grace and mercy we are saved from eternal damnation, as a result of our sinful lives, to be justified and made clean before God, safe and eternally secure. This is through faith, accepting what Christ has done for us, and not what we can do. It is the most beautiful and blessed message any of us can hear. It is one on which to build our lives. Nothing else in this world gives us hope and peace like God’s grace and mercy.
At the heart of the Gospel is God’s mercy – sparing us what we deserve in judgment and giving us peace in Christ. Whilst we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God invests into all those who turn to Him in faith, and continues to do so because of His love and mercy toward us. In response to receiving God’s mercy, we are to be merciful to those around us.
I am going to stop at this point to allow you to respond to the following question:
What is it to be merciful??
We will likely draw out different aspects of being merciful and have different responses. That’s ok. We are here to learn from each other. So I welcome your responses. Please think of what it is to be merciful, and what it is not.
To further that thought, think of how the church can be and is merciful and how it isn’t.
I look forward to reading your responses.