“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy”
(Matt. 5:7) KJV
The definition of merciful, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “showing or exercising mercy.1 So what is mercy? How do I show or exercise mercy to others? The definition given for mercy is "compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.” Some similar words are grace, kindness, compassion, and tender-hearted.2 According to Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, being merciful is “to be compassionate” (by word or deed, specifically by divine grace).”3 I love how Chuck Swindoll expresses the meaning of merciful, “The ‘merciful’ are those whose hearts are moved for those in need, having a desire to step in and assist in relieving their pain…The effects of a lifestyle of mercy are both future (heavenly) and present (earthly).”4
After reading these definitions, I asked myself, what is the one person or story in the Bible that gives us an example of mercy. My mind immediately thought of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-20). In this story, we see the son choose to go and live his life outside of his father’s will. The son squanders the inheritance that he asks his father for, he goes to a distant land, he continues to go downhill and eventually ends up in a pigsty. He was a child of a wealthy man, but he left that all behind him. I love how the story says, “he came to his senses.” Aren’t we like that in our Christian walk sometimes? We are all like the Prodigal Son. We wander away from what we know to be right and hopefully we come to our senses. So now we see the son returning to his home, knowing he does not deserve to be treated as a son, but the father shows him great mercy. He prepares a feast and gives him a robe and a ring.
This parable not only shows how we should be toward those who do not deserve mercy but also how our Heavenly Father shows us mercy.
In the introduction to this blog series, Kathryn points out that Jesus showed us mercy by becoming our High Priest and allowing us access to His throne (Hebrews 4:15-16). God showed us mercy by sending His only begotten son to give us the gift of eternal life through believing in His son (John 3:16). While Jesus was on the earth, He showed mercy to many through giving them healing. One instance of this healing is found in Matthew 20:29-33. Two blind men call out to Jesus to have mercy on them. The crowd rebukes them but they continue to call for mercy from Jesus. Jesus has compassion on them, and they are healed physically (their eyesight is restored) and spiritually (they become His followers).
The Psalms contain many verses that reflect on the mercy of God toward us. A few examples:
- “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever: … For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.” Psalm 89:1-2 (KJV).
- “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:1 (KJV).
- In Psalm 136, the phrase “for His mercy endureth for ever” is repeated twenty-six times.
- Psalms 23:6 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will]dwell in the house of the Lord Forever“
Years ago, I was dealing with an extremely difficult situation involving a loved one. I was so angry at this person and ready to take extreme action. I happened to be sorting laundry (a stressful household task for me since I do not have a laundry room), I was throwing the clothes in their respective piles while crying and venting my anger. In the middle of this chaos one word came into my mind, Grace. I was flooded with thoughts of how I could show grace and I remembered how God had shown me grace so many times in my life. Grace is getting the exact opposite of what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Before we can show mercy, we have to be reminded of God’s grace toward us.
It was not easy to show mercy but I was able to do so with the help of the Holy Spirit. We are not able to show mercy on our own, we must rely on the One who showed us great grace and mercy to be able to exhibit this attribute in our lives.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 6:23 (KJV)
We are charged to be merciful and to engage in acts of mercy.
So in light of this, what are some practical ways for us to show mercy? The first thing that comes to my mind is to share the truth of God’s merciful gift of eternal life with love to a lost and dying world. Next, when we are angry at someone we should not act in haste, but rather find a way to be gracious in whatever situation we face. We should be forgiving and not seek revenge. When we see a need that we are able to meet, why not step up and do it? There are so many needs in our homes, communities, churches, and our world. We can share our time, talents, and treasures. Sometimes a smile and a kind word to the weary checker at the grocery store shows them mercy. So as you walk with Christ this week, seek ways to show mercy to others.
Written By Sheilah Adkins
1 The Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2022, s.v. “merciful”
2 The Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2022, s.v. “mercy”
3 James Strong. Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament. MacDonald Publishing Company, s.v. “mercy”4 Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Matthew 1-15 (Tyndale House Publishers, 2020) 89.