“Let me say something to whoever will listen to me. Love those who hate you, do honorable things to people who resent you, compliment those who dislike you, pray for those who are ill-natured toward you. If someone hits you on one side of your face, offer him the other side of your face. If someone steals your shirt, offer him your coat too. Always offer things to people who ask for them. For those who rob from you, don’t ask for your possessions back. You should do the same to others that you would want them to do to you.
“If you love others who also feel the same way about you, what honor is that to you? Even evildoers love those who love them. In the same way, if you perform good deeds for people who do the same for you, how is that reputable and sincere? Immoral people do the same thing for others. Another way to put it is if you entrust something valuable to someone you know will treat it with respect, how is that admirable? Love your opponents, do good things and lend your belongings while expecting nothing back. In the end, your benefit will be abundant and you will be sons of God. He is generous to those who are hard-hearted and malicious. Consequently, be merciful as God is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36 TMTV (The Melting Thought Version!)
Some of you are probably familiar with the above passage in the Bible. I just wrote it in my own words in a way that I could understand it. I hope you guys got the same message that I did. There’s something about offering grace and mercy to those who hardly deserve it. We are all familiar with the two words (grace and mercy). We constantly hear in church that God offer’s His grace and mercy but what do those two words really mean?
Grace means getting what you don’t deserve. It is an unmerited, unwarranted blessing. It is God blessing us in spite of the fact that we are not entitled to it. Grace is bestowing courtesy to those who don’t deserve it. The Greek word for grace is charis. According to the NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, grace is “That which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness. Grace of speech good will, loving-kindness, favor of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues what is due”. 1
Mercy is withholding or restraining from a penalty or punishment. It is God not giving people what they deserve. God’s mercy is attracted toward those we would naturally consider most unlikely. It is liberation from judgment that has certainly been earned. Mercy is compassion put into practice. It originates from the heart. The Greek word for mercy is eleos. It means compassion or generosity towards the hopeless and the suffering. It is related to the passion to assist people. Regarding God’s mercy on humans, mercy is His all encompassing gift. The mercy and forgiveness of God procures and provides salvation to us through Christ. The two combining methods God shows His mercy is through provision and forgiveness.
Mercy has two qualities. First, it is forgiveness for the condemned and freedom from judgment that is deserved. Next, mercy is having compassion on those who are suffering and going through hardships.
Those who call themselves Christians and live Christ-centered lives can sometimes be “dual natured beings”. They pray for God to give them mercy and compassion on people but they also portray the negative attitude that says, “If God doesn’t punish that guy, I will!” Maybe God has a plan for that person to show His mercy and give him a second chance to redeem himself. In most circumstances, it is not our place to put judgment on people but instead await for God’s ultimate judgment. Sometimes waiting for that to come can take a lifetime. Sometimes judgment doesn’t even happen on this side of eternity.
David, before he was king, was put in a place twice where he offered mercy to King Saul. King Saul had been pursuing David and his mighty men for years; intent on putting an end to them. In 1 Samuel chapters 24 and 26, David had a chance to kill Saul in his sleep. Even some of the spies he took with him encouraged him to kill Saul. However, David refused.
I Samuel 26:9-10 NKJV, “But David said to Abishai, ‘Do not destroy him [Saul]; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?’ David said furthermore, ‘As the Lord lives, the Lord shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.'”
In this passage, David offered the greatest example of mercy to Saul. Here was David, being chased by Saul across the wilderness of Israel for year without any real cause. Saul’s madness and anger drove him to put an end to David’s life. David had every reason in the world the stab Saul in his sleep and put an end to the hunt. After all, David was the anointed king! It was his right to take the kingship! But he stayed his hand.
Instead, David exercised mercy on Saul. He knew that it wasn’t the right time for Saul to die. David held onto the promise of God that one day he would be king and in due time, God would make that happen. But that night wasn’t the right time. Sure, David could have taken matters into his own hands. His own men even told him that God had delivered Saul into his hand. But David knew the heart of God and the difference between the rash decisions of men and waiting on God’s promise. Instead, he chose to show mercy on King Saul.
I was put in a place once where I had to choose to show mercy on someone. This particular person (I’ll call them Charlie) committed an action against me that would have definitely landed them in jail. In most circumstances, I wouldn’t have thought twice about calling the cops and reporting the crime. However, Charlie’s incarceration would have affected my life and my kid’s lives.
I called up two people who I place a lot of trust in and got their opinions as to what I should do. One of the people said that justice must be served. Charlie committed the crime, it deserved punishment; plain and simple. The other person I spoke to held the opposite opinion. He asked me several questions that got me to think differently. Charlie had no history of violence and because the confinement to jail would affect other people, I should let this offense go.
Several minutes later, I was one more button away from dialing 9-1-1 but then I thought better of it. After much prayer and serious consideration, I decided to not report the incident. Even after I informed Charlie that I wouldn’t report him/her, Charlie didn’t grasp the seriousness and enormity of the situation. When mercy is enacted on someone, they might not even realize it. That’s what made it harder on me to make that decision to display mercy.
I felt no relief. I still had a load on my shoulders. With time, it lessened but still till this day (the incident happened in 2011) I regret not reporting the crime. The fact that Charlie continues to act towards me in a negative way makes me think thoughts like, “Why didn’t I dial that last button and report the crime? Why did I choose to show mercy but Charlie never seemed to realize how close he/she was to justifiable punishment?”
I may never know the answers to those questions. Charlie may continue his/her unfair treatment of me. However, I will never know what might have happened if I didn’t show mercy and went ahead with turning Charlie in.
Since that incident, Charlie and I have somewhat come to a “tolerating understanding” existence of each other. Although I have forgiven Charlie of the crime, we haven’t and may never fully reconcile our relationship. You should never reconcile when it’s not safe. Reconciliation may not mean full restoration, just living a life without strife and conflict.
There is a way for one to feel compassion but not to display or practice it. They always think of excuses. “I don’t have enough time,” or “There are plenty of others who are better at it,” or “It’s not my calling,” We can’t offer our assistance to everything that tugs at our hearts. I am always drawn to those images of children in the slums who are dying of malnutrition. I can’t always afford the $75 a month to support an orphan in South America. But I can pray for them. I can offer my sincere request that God would bring aid to those innocent children. There are enough Christians in this world that have the means to aid those who need help to some degree.
Here is a quote from Keith Green’s album “I Only Want To See You There” where he speaks to his audience about the responsibility of the church:
“Do you know that if the church did its job, there would be no need for welfare in this country? The original church…was the welfare board, they were the unemployment insurance, employment agency, they were the soup kitchen, they were the pregnancy counseling clinic. They were all these things an more. They were the representation of God’s glory upon the earth. Now look at us! Oh, we’re still the representation of God’s glory on the earth, but can people see it? And if they can’t then how will they?”
Mercy is granting justice, offering relief. Should we not offer mercy when God does? If we don’t offer someone mercy, we may miss out on God’s blessing in their lives. The opposite of that is also true. Should we offer mercy even though God decides not to offer it? The one place I never want to be is out of God’s will. So before you decide to carry out mercy, make sure that it’s also God’s plan.
Mercy is something that will cost you. You may end up regretting the fact that you offered it in the first place as I have with Charlie. It’s usually not going to be easy to display mercy to someone. You will usually sacrifice something in the process. However, if you are on the receiving end of mercy and you’re aware of it, there is nothing greater than that feeling. To be pardoned from certain punishment that you deserved is to know gratefulness and gratitude.
So live your life every day looking for opportunities to extend grace and mercy to those who don’t deserve it. Sure, grace and mercy should be shown to people who do deserve it but as the scripture said at the beginning, “…in the end, your benefit will be abundant and you will be sons of God!” Wow!