By Rick Furmanek

Matthew 5: ” “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Matthew 9: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 18: “And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”

Luke 6: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

James 2: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

I think it’s fairly safe to conclude from these passages that God has certain expectations of his people . . . those who follow his Son, Jesus Christ . . . with regards to mercy. An authentic Christian walk characterized by mercy is another discipline that must be maintained daily . . . always ready for expression and demonstration.

Just what is mercy? What does it actually mean? And what does it look like?

Followers of Christ are quite aware of the Bible’s message regarding the mercy of God. Scripture is full of both reminders and examples of God’s wonderful mercy He bestows upon his people. Here are a couple of verses describing the mercy of God.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

We see from these verses that mercy is often closely connected with an opportunity for, and a desire to, receive or extend forgiveness. Note that the Bible says God’s mercy is abundant, powerful, arises out of love and is readily available for anyone who would seek for Him and cry out for mercy.

Christ tells us to carry with us that same attitude . . . ‘Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.’

But what about when we are offended or sinned against . . . and we have been hurt really bad . . . way beyond a harmless statement or act? What about the more heinous crimes, those that society condemns and refuses to forgive and forget?

Does mercy have limitations? Some seem to like to think so. Utterances such as, “I can only go so far,” “They pushed me to the limit this time,” or “What do they expect of me?” depict a desire to permit one’s self to place restraints on how far their mercy will go . . . yet the Bible says,

“As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!”

God provides us the wonderful example of how mercy is supposed to be at work in our lives . . . unrestrained, unconditional and unlimited.

That said, mercy isn’t just some sort of indefinable fuzzy, hazy notion of tolerance and acceptance of anything that comes down the pike  . . . that’s pluralism . . . which is not a biblical concept.

No, mercy has specifics, it has a baseline from which it works, it has parameters for how it is to be carried out.

Here are three important steps that, when followed biblically, will create that spiritual atmosphere where true mercy can be both demonstrated and experienced by all parties involved . . . understanding that by the nature of our extending mercy to another, we are personally receiving mercy directly from the throne room. Just think about it, we please our Father God when we show mercy.

Step One . . . Resolve to Confront without Defamation – The need for mercy usually has to do with an offense of sin against us or someone we care about. We are not at  liberty to ignore those offenses or sins . . . we must confront . . . but without malicious intention, or the pound for a pound of flesh mentality. God calls us to demonstrate mercy by first exposing what is wrong . . . this in itself is a merciful act. The greater injustice would be to let it go and never address it.

Step Two . . . Provide Correction without Condemnation. Once we expose what is wrong (confrontation), the next step is to reveal what is right via correction . . . from God’s Word . . . in love. One’s worthy meter must be intentionally disabled when correcting another person. True mercy can be defined as the withholding from a person that which they deserve. Correcting for the sheer sake of proving one’s self right, more insightful, more learned, more mature, or more disciplined may make the one doling out the correction feel vindicated, but in reality that type of motivation for correcting does absolutely no good for the one receiving the correction. God’s mercy is tender . . . and so must ours . . . especially in our correction.

Step Three . . . Offer Restoration without Stipulation. This is the ultimate demonstration of mercy. Restoration should always be our aim when showing mercy to another. Confronting and correcting without restoration is cruel and unusual punishment. Leaving a brother or sister dangling spiritually, not knowing where they stand with you, with God or with themselves, can devastate a soul. Not providing a clear path toward complete restoration leaves the stuff of relationships undone, incomplete . . . thus you end up with a fragmented person . . . and still worse . . . a fragmented soul.

Note Paul’s directions here . . .

Galatians 6: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

Mercy is great medicine for the soul . . . it models God’s heart . . . it is a wonderful aspect of body life . . . and finally it helps us to live together in unity as fellow citizens of both the Kingdom now and the Kingdom to come.

May we all be more merciful to each other every single day.

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