Character Trait No. 37




Definition:  Having, feeling, and showing more kindness than justice requires

    “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6:36


Everybody believes in mercy when they need it.  Go and learn what this means:  “I desire compassion (mercy) and not sacrifice”, said Jesus to the criticizing Pharisees while he was eating with tax gatherers and “sinners”. (Mat.9: 13)  Self-righteous people totally miss the grace of God as they smugly pray:

     “God, I thank Thee that I am no like other people; swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax gatherer.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” (Lk.18: 11-12)


According to Christ, the Pharisees were lovers of money (stingy and uncharitable), justifying themselves in the sight of men – but God knew their hearts.  For that  (money) which is highly esteemed among such men is detestable to God. (Lk. 16:15:16) Such men quickly walk by a beaten crime victim rather than stooping down and serving him. (Lk.10: 31,33)  Blind to God’s incredible charity towards themselves, they gleefully grab stones to hurl at defenseless, embarrassed women caught (trapped) in adultery.  In their ruthless hands, the law becomes an executioner’s axe for their unwary neighbor who’s struggling with some sin.


Without condoning sin, we must take our cue from Jesus, who himself never sinned, and yet would also neither condone the stoning of the women caught in adultery.  His choice of eating and drinking companions was also not accidental.  He said that the healthy don’t need a physician and the (self-designated) “saved” need no Savior.  As for him, he came to call the sinners.  The most holy man who has ever lived on earth freely gave warm acceptance for those individuals seeking love, grace and truth.  The kindness of God surely leads to repentance. (Rom.:2:4)


Although we are to be perfect, and have the potential to walk just as Jesus walked by following the leading of His Holy Spirit, we all “still stumble in many ways.” (Jam.3:2)

As children of God, we must learn to crawl before we walk, and walk before we run, and run before we spiritually leap over hurdles, and then ultimately fly! So we must “be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving each other just as in Christ, God forgave us.” (Eph.4:32)  Received grace engenders more grace towards others – he who is forgiven much, loves much.  Merciful people have grateful hearts, knowing how much they themselves needed mercy from God and men.  As God’s people, our hearts must reflect His own towards those who are tortured by guilt and doubt, unable to love themselves or others as they view their own miserable failures. 


There will always be the element of human error because of our physical weakness.  These errors are not really sins, but mistakes of judgment or due to some inability or lack of training or experience.  We must not expect more of an individual than they are capable of actually performing.  Great frustration is sure to set in!  This is especially important for parents to remember when working with their children.  Children are not just littler adults.  They are different.  (“Father, don’t exasperate your children”.) Husbands also must be merciful with their wives, as they are the “weaker vessel”. (3:7)


Sometimes competent people are overly hard on the less gifted, not realizing the difficulties some folk’ face in doing what for the other is a relatively simple task. This includes dealing with people with poor educational, social or family backgrounds.  Even though it seems that they should be able to do better, perhaps our evaluation of them is over-optimistic.   When in doubt, we should lean on being merciful rather than too harsh.  Remember, blessed are those who give others a break. (Lk.6:36, Hostetter paraphrase).


Jesus illustrates God’s grace by contrasting it with the king’s slave who owed ten thousand talents ($16,000,000!) and couldn’t pay. (Mt.18:23-35) The lord had compassion on him and forgave him the entire debt.  Later, this same ungrateful fellow grabbed a fellow slave who owed him a measly hundred denarii - perhaps several hundred dollars – and started violently forcing him to immediately pay him back. No pleas for patience were entertained by the brutal “loan shark”, who threw the helpless man into debtors’ jail. Later, when the king heard of this outrageous behavior, he said,

    “You wicked slave, I forgave you all that de because you entreated me.  Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?”  Then he had the wicked miscreant tortured until he could repay all that was owed.  That’s what the lord could have done at the first, since such an astronomical debt required it.  In the same way, even after being forgiven by God at immersion, we’ll still end up in hell if subsequently we fail to show grace and mercy to our fellow man.  We are to forgive others – even as we are forgiven.


When mercy is scorned and abused, then the law’s strong arm must prevail.  There is a time when grace, mercy, kindness, forgiveness and grace cease being a virtue and become a weakness.  Yet we in the Lord’s family should strive to be paragons of mercy in a merciless world.  True mercy doesn’t justify the offense or make liberal excuses for the offenders that turn criminals into victims.  There is an end to second chances!  But rather than jumping up to prosecute people, we should usually allow the law and sin’s harsh, natural consequences to run their course.  We are not the law, but people who offer salvation by grace to lost souls who are perishing. Otherwise, real sin problems will simply disappear underground, only to later resurface full grown and ungovernable. Its been said that the church is the only army who shoots her wounded!!  May that never be said of your congregation. It is not the Catholic Sisters of Mercy (nuns) who should be known for this character trait, but the brothers and sisters in God’s holy church.


Remember, love does not take into account a wrong suffered, it is not easily provoked, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.

How we wish that all of our faults and shortcomings could be undone, forgotten and remembered no more by God and men alike.  Well, they are:

    “He will not always strive with us;

    Nor will He keep His anger forever.

    He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

    Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

    For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

    So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.

    As far as the east if from the west,

    So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

    Just has a father has compassion (mercy) on his children,

    So the Lord compassion on those who fear Him.”  (Psalm 103:9-13)


God, and godly men and women do forgive and forget, showing mercy to those worms that world would crush.  And if God says its over, it’s over!  Imitate Him, dear children, and be merciful.