“They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy.”
Romans 1:31 NLT
The last character trait in Romans 1:31 that Paul brought to the attention of the Roman Christians was about mercy. We Christians know a lot about mercy because God demonstrated His mercy for us when He sent Jesus to Planet Earth to save us from the consequences of our sins. And the Apostle James wrote about how mercy integrates with our standing before God. We read in James 2:13, “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.”
We see the outworking of a lack of mercy in the current war in Ukraine. Shelling and firing missiles at a civilian population shows a complete lack of mercy. We may wring our hands with despair at the thought that the perpetrators of such merciless violence will somehow emerge unscathed from the war and go on to live the rest of their lives without any apparent problems. But we know how it will end for such people. They will have to account for their lives either in this life or the next, or even both. Showing a lack of mercy to others will be judged as such one day.
The Bible encourages us to be merciful at every opportunity, not just for the benefit of the other person or persons, but also for our own lives. Proverbs 11:17 (AMP) reads, “The merciful and generous man benefits his soul [for his behaviour returns to bless him], But the cruel and callous man does himself harm“. When He created us, God wired us in such a way that certain life styles or attitudes, those harmoniously in sync with His design, work to our benefit. Being merciful is one of them. In His Beatitudes, Jesus taught that the merciful are blessed. We read in Matthew 5:7, “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
So, how do we pilgrims find the sweet spot of God’s blessings by being merciful? What does that look like in our 21st Century living? It is unlikely that we can sail through life without experiencing at some point an injustice or offence. A harsh word directed at us. An uncalled for angry response that started off as a misunderstanding. A media report that initiates feelings of anger within us. Our world is an unhappy place and a lack of mercy is the norm. But we pilgrims are God-followers. A counter-cultural movement of those serving in the new Kingdom, bringing Good News of a merciful and loving God into our communities, our families, our world. So we don’t react to the unmerciful acts of others. We don’t respond in anger when wronged. And we hold onto to God’s hand as we navigate through life, conscious of His leading when an opportunity for being merciful emerges from the gloom of misery around us. We can’t do much about the unmerciful acts of others but we can show mercy to those around us. Conscious that the mercy we show is resourced from our Heavenly Dad – His mercy is unlimited.
Dear Father God. Thank You that You are merciful, because if You weren’t we wouldn’t be where we are before You. We praise and worship You today. Amen.