A Biblical View of Mercy

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There are many important concepts that are central to the Christian faith. One that lies at the very heart of Christianity is the idea of God’s mercy toward those he has created. Mercy according to the Bible is compassion for those who are miserable. God shows mercy toward his fallen creation by providing a way for them to be redeemed and restored to fellowship with him. Sinful people deserve eternity in hell away from a perfect, pure, and holy God, but God shows mercy by choosing to love people and provide a way for them to be saved. What specific Bible verses deal with mercy and how it is shown by God and by his people?

Mercy, as demonstrated by God, is shown steadfast, committed love and care for his people.

Those who commit their love and devotion to God will be shown mercy by him (Exodus 20:5, 6). Mercy is reflected in the context of a debt that is owed. Sinful people are in a dire situation before a holy God. God’s pure righteousness requires perfect justice and that means eternal punishment for those who have rejected his ways and have chosen to act in rebellion against him. God cannot accept that his creation would give worship to any other than him. It is only his mercy that makes a way of salvation for those who commit to following him completely and giving their complete adoration to him.

God’s covenant with his people depended upon him showing mercy to his people (1 Kings 8:22, 23). Solomon, in his prayer of dedication of the newly built temple, declared that the Lord God was unique because he consistently showed steadfast love to those who lived out the will of the Lord with all their hearts. That God kept covenant with his people was most clearly seen in him having mercy upon them. The sacrificial system was a way for God to show mercy upon his people by covering over their sin and atoning for their inability to remain faithful to his commands. Though the people of God are unfaithful, God continually chooses to remain faithful by showing his mercy to those who justly deserve death.

King David knew the Lord as his good shepherd who led him in ways of blessing and joy. Because the presence of God was continually in his life, he could rely upon the fact that mercy would follow him wherever he went (Psalm 23:5, 6). David made a close connection between God’s mercy and living eternally in his presence. While David was a man after God’s own heart, he was also a sinful man in need of salvation. Mercy is God’s continual love that shows itself to those who allow God to lead and direct their lives. The Lord is a good shepherd to those who place themselves in his hands to direct and guide their lives.  As they do, they will experience, as David did, the mercy and goodness of God and will be confident in the promise that they will forever live in the presence of God for eternity.

Jesus encountered people who sought obedience to God’s commands apart from showing mercy.

They had misunderstood the heart of the sacrificial system. When he came to the Earth, he showed the mercy of God to those who were in need. He reclined at table with those who had been cast away by the religious rulers. He came to bring healing to those who were spiritually sick. He offered mercy rather than strict legalistic rulemaking (Matthew 9:10-13). In doing so, Jesus revealed the heart of the Father and demonstrated what real mercy looks like in action. He came to be the sacrifice for sin that would enable God’s mercy to be shown to all who would put their trust in him for salvation; all who would admit their spiritual sickness and look to him for the answer.

The Apostle Paul wrote many times of how God’s mercy radically transformed his life. He acknowledged his past sin and how it was the mercy of God that redeemed him from a worthless life and placed him on the path of righteous and wholeness in Christ for all eternity (1 Timothy 1:13, 14). God’s mercy is shown only to those who are in Christ. Though Paul was a faithful Pharisee, his work was worthless since he was separated by his sin from a perfect, holy God. When Paul encountered the mercy of the Lord, everything that he knew about his life and about God changed forever. The love of God in Christ overwhelmed Paul and he received mercy. From that point on, Paul’s mission in life was to tell others that the mercy of God was available to them if only they would put their trust in him for salvation and commit themselves completely to his service.

God’s wisdom enables his people to show mercy to others as he has shown to them (James 3:17). People are only able to be who they are intended to be when they place themselves at God’s disposal and allow him to live through them. God’s revelation of himself is what enables his people to act with the steadfast, intense, determined love that only can be shown by those who are in Christ. The wisdom of God enables his people to see others as they truly are; people separated from their creator and in desperate need of reconciliation with their creator. The wisdom of God enables his people to show mercy and thus lead those in bondage to sin toward a life of faith and trust in Christ for salvation and eternal life.

God’s mercy is what gives hope to people living in a world marred by sin. The separation caused by sin is only overcome by the mercy of God. God’s mercy is demonstrated by his choice to show love toward those who will respond to his offer of salvation by placing their lives in his loving hands. The people of God are able to show mercy to others because they have received mercy from him and have been transformed by their encounter with him. For all eternity those who love the Lord will sing his praise for showing them mercy and enabling them to live forever with him.

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