This is a verse that I have been thinking a lot about over the past few weeks and what it really means for me to be merciful in my day-to-day life. I think that, particularly in our western culture, mercy can be portrayed as weakness, and that it is weak to show mercy to others, or even ourselves. But, by looking at how God shows us mercy, I’m realising that it actually takes strength to be merciful. It is definitely not the easy option, or a ‘get out’ in a situation. It takes real determination.
There are lots of ways that we can show mercy in our everyday life. It doesn’t have to just be the classic definition of not punishing someone in the way they deserve. We can show mercy by meeting someone where they’re at, and by going the extra mile to help them, (especially if they’re unaware that we have). We can show mercy by not judging or criticising, by being gentle, compassionate, and understanding, and by asking the Holy Spirit to help us cultivate mercy as a heart attitude.
I have found, as I am consciously trying more to put this into practice, that it goes against my human nature, especially at times when I don’t “feel like it”, or I am annoyed or upset in a situation. It feels far easier to be merciful when I feel empathy for someone or haven’t been negatively affected by the situation. I’m also realising that this is something that we can’t get very far with by ourselves. We need the Holy Spirit to help us become more like Him. Otherwise, it is just a surface level, superficial human effort, which doesn’t last long.
Isaiah 58:6-12 sums this up well in how, as believers, we are called to put this into action. ‘Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard’ (Isaiah 58:7-8).
This might not be something that we are able to do literally, such as offering our house to strangers, or buying food for others, but there is more than one way of doing this. How could we share our ‘spiritual food’ with others, encourage them, pray for them, build them up, or walk with them in their ups and downs? It is not weak to show mercy. It takes courage and intention, but in Matthew 10:8 we are told, ‘Freely you have received; freely give.’ That is so powerful! I will let that verse speak for itself.
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