“This Lent needs to be not what you will give up, but what you will live for. Not how you might demonstrate your piety, but how you might live in true obedience to God. Not what you will prove, but what reproves you” (Karoline Lewis in “Working Preacher” (Feb. 26, 2017).
This series on Lent was first posted in February and March, 2017 and has been updated. It is fascinating to observe how much more difficult our lives have become in four years. These Lenten meditations will be posted on Tuesdays and Fridays.
What is mercy? What does it feel like? To me mercy is cold water when I am parched or long-awaited relief from a persistent leg cramp or walking out of humid, 95-degree Michigan heat into an air-conditioned room. Before reading the rest of this post, take a minute to try to feel what being shown mercy is like.
Before writing this post, I spent some time with dictionary definitions of the word mercy. The one I like best is from Vocabulary.com:
“Compassion leads you to have mercy, which is like forgiveness. If you have mercy on someone, you let them off the hook or are kind to them somehow.”
Here are some questions I have about what mercy is
♥ Does mercy precede forgiveness or accompany it?
♥ Do we really “love mercy” as a value? Or do we resent mercy when the “other” seems to receive it?
♥ Does everyone recognize mercy when they receive it? Do you have to be shown mercy to give mercy?
♥ How is the political climate we are enduring driving the concept of mercy underground?
♥ If we can’t show mercy, is it even possible to say that we have compassion?
♥ Can we really claim to be a “Christian” or a Christ-follower if we do not show mercy?
Amy Oden says that “Mercy is the currency of the kingdom of heaven” (Working Preacher website, February 2, 2014). What does that mean? Currency makes it possible to do business with each other. Currency is what we exchange when we receive something and what we receive when we give something. Without currency the world would be chaos. And without mercy our world is in chaos. Mercy re-orders life in the Kingdom of God. It should re-order our families, our churches, our social justice system – and our politics.
Micah 6:8 explains how we can show mercy.
“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously” (The MSG)
Where can you show mercy today? Who do you need to confront for their lack of mercy? Our master said that when you bestow mercy you will receive it (Matt. 5:7). What greater reward can there be?
Does mercy go hand in hand with grace in Agapi?
I would say it would be hard to have a sense of mercy without having experienced grace and it would be easier to extend mercy if you have appreciated the grace and mercy of God. Any comments from other readers on Mary Kay and Bob’s thoughts?
Well said!, Mary Kay, Thanks for your comment.
Thank you for this thoughtful post and the challenging questions! I think mercy has to accompany forgiveness – neither can stand completely alone. Mercy without forgiveness could be cheap, and forgiveness without mercy could be full of resentment.