Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
What does the word ‘mercy’ mean? To be merciful is to give attention to another person without judgment, if necessary forgiving the other person, and helping to meet his or her needs as if they were my own.
Jesus said in the beatitude teachings, “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7 – NLT). So, how will you be merciful? The Christian writer Rick Warren has some suggestions. He says:
- Be patient with people’s quirks: What person in your life has irritating quirks? How can you practice patience with that person this week?
- Help anyone around you who is hurting: See who around you is obviously hurting—and then look for a way you can help this week. If you can’t find anybody, then you’re not paying attention. Look closer!
- Give people a second chance: Who in your life needs a second chance? How can you show that person mercy and compassion this week?
- Do good to those who hurt you: Maybe you’re suffering from an old wound that you have not been able to let go of. Choose to forgive and then turn it around for good. Who is that person in your life? Will you make a phone call or a visit this week?
- Be kind to those who offend you: Who offends you? Maybe it’s a politician or a comedian that you can pray for. Maybe it’s a Facebook friend who has different views and says some pretty offensive things. How can you be intentional about showing kindness to that person this week?
- Build bridges of love to the unpopular: What person first comes to mind when you think of an outcast? Who spends their lunch breaks eating alone or doesn’t seem to have any friends at soccer games? What specific thing will you do this week to bridge the gap between you and that person with love?
Being merciful means unconditional love and acceptance. We cannot say, You did this to yourself; you live in poverty because you are lazy; or, You are sick because you do not eat healthy foods; or, You have cancer because you smoke cigarettes. Therefore, because of these things, I am under no obligation to help you. The merciful do not make those kinds of judgments; those are for God alone to make. Our job is to be merciful to all, and thereby obtain mercy from God.
According to the Bible, mercy does matter: It matters because we all need forgiveness. But mercy also matters because it is what can join us all together in spite of our differences. Mercy doesn’t end there, of course. But it begins with small acts of understanding, which can lead to life-changing experiences of love.
The Lord is kind and shows mercy. He does not become angry quickly but is full of love. (Psalm 145:8 -NCV)
Psalm 119:156 (NKJV) says, “Great are your tender mercies O Lord”, and Psalm 145:8-9 (NKJV), “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion; slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works”
God Calls Us to Be Merciful
We often think of mercy as a weak attribute, a failing of justice, or a lack of strength. This is wrong. Mercy is compassion. It is kindness. It is love in action. God calls us to be merciful, like he is.
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Pope Francis has said, “Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.” Quite a challenge in his words. He means that Christians are different: they are happy to extend a hand of mercy any time. Perhaps most significantly for Christians, Jesus shows us what it means to be merciful: He healed the sick, welcomed the stranger and pardoned those who persecuted and killed him.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta said,
We have forgotten that we belong to one another. Today, when the world is in dire need of compassion, mercy, and hope, we can begin with ourselves, by going to God and asking for forgiveness. Then we can share that mercy with our family, our neighbors, and the world.
Moother Teresa simply wanted to be “like a little pencil in God’s hands”.
Mother Teresa opened herself up completely to what God wanted of her. In fact she once made a vow never to refuse God anything that God wanted of her. She simply wanted to be “like a little pencil in God’s hands” and allow God to write mercy into the world through her. She was able to see the face of Jesus in those to whom she brought God’s love and mercy. She saw the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor, those with AIDS, those with terrible disfigurements and disease, those abandoned and dying on the streets from malnutrition.
Father John Wright, author of The Smallest Spark, says:
Focus on little things that perhaps seem to have no significance. For example, has any effort been given to simply acknowledging someone’s presence with a smile, especially when it’s someone who does not make us feel like smiling? That is mercy.
So, my question is, When was the last time you showed some mercy?