Two of the greatest concepts known to man are “grace” and “mercy.” They each appear in Scripture and often overlap, having to do with kindness toward another. Grace and mercy are coupled together in Paul’s greetings to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2) and in John’s greeting to the elect lady (2 John 3).
A good example of mercy is the Good Samaritan.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37).
Unlike the priest and Levite, the Samaritan “showed mercy” by caring for the man. His pity prompted action. Had he simply felt sorry for the wounded traveler and kept walking, he would have been no more merciful than the others.
When the ten lepers cried out for Jesus to “have mercy” on them in Luke 17:13, they were not just wanting the Lord to feel sorry for them. They wanted Him to do something. He answered their cry and “had mercy” by meeting their needs.
In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the king “had mercy” on his servant by releasing him and forgiving the debt (Matthew 18:27, WYC); and in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father “was stirred by mercy” to embrace his son and receive him back without punishment (Luke 15:20, WYC). In both parables, mercy was demonstrated in action. Many other examples could be cited, but surely one can see the point.
Attribute of God
Mercy is an attribute of God. The Psalmist frequently made reference to God’s mercy: “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious…” (86:15), “The Lord is merciful and gracious…” (103:8), “…the Lord is gracious and merciful” (111:4), “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful” (116:5), “Great is your mercy, O Lord…” (119:156), “The Lord is gracious and merciful” (145:8), etc. Paul described God as “the Father of mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:3) and as being “rich” in mercy (Ephesians 2:4). Peter described Him as having “great” mercy (1 Peter 1:3). Jesus is our “merciful” high priest (Hebrews 2:17).
Requirement of Christians
Christians are to be merciful. Jesus said, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Paul added that acts of mercy are to be done “with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:8), which is similar to Peter’s exhortation to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). It is not enough to do these things; they must be done with the right attitude.
Christians must extend mercy to obtain mercy. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Notice that those who give mercy will get mercy. James made the same point when he wrote, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).
God has saved us “according to his own mercy” (Titus 3:5; also 1 Peter 1:3). He had compassion on our miserable situation and did something to help. He sent His Son to die as the perfect sacrifice for sin. Hence, His pity prompted action. Now, through our obedience, we “have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).