“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
It’s no secret that mercy defines itself in the life of Christ. Mercifully, He doesn’t give us what our sin deserves and the Father’s holiness demands.
“But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4,5, NIV).
Because of this character quality in Him, He demands it in us. The life of a Christ-follower will be defined by the mercy he/she shows another.
When I was in college a girl on my floor ended up in the infirmary after having her wisdom teeth pulled. She was a mutual friend to both me and my roommate, and she was in excruciating pain. I don’t remember the details. I do remember hearing about how my roommate spent the next 24 hours with her changing the packing in her mouth and sitting with our friend and getting no sleep. I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I heard about it because that has always been my roommate’s personality. She breathes mercy on everyone she meets, one of the kindest, most thoughtful people you will ever meet.
Mercy has been shown to me countless times in my life. There is a reason I don’t go to the library very often. Though it is a frugal way to read books, if you’re me every book checked out represents a late fee! One time I owed the library $20 for a couple of books that I had forgotten about. They even started sending me “reminders” in the mail that I had something of theirs. Frustrated with myself for my lack of responsibility, I marched into that library ready to pay. I had made my peace with the fact that my forgetfulness had consequences. Instead, the lady behind the desk, pulled up my account, looked at the amount, looked at me and said, “Oh, we’ll just waive that fee. Have a nice day.” I couldn’t believe it!
Like all of the other character traits in Matthew 5 that Jesus wants us to display, mercy is a heart issue, but for me I find it a little easier to explain this one to my kids. Mercy, like meekness, is how we behave when no one is looking. As parents we put so much emphasis on sports and academic pursuits. We want our kids to be the best they can be, possibly carving out a spot on the scholarship list and making a name for themselves. I admit I have fallen into this thinking of wanting my kids to stand out in whatever it is they are pursuing. There’s nothing wrong with doing your best at whatever you are doing. In fact, anything less is wrong. However, the older I get and the older my kids get, I find I am less interested in their sports abilities and anything else and far more interested in their character.
Before every baseball game I tell my son to play well but to be an encourager and a leader to his teammates. I don’t know how those words play out on the bench, but my message to him is always the same: I couldn’t care less about his baseball abilities. What matters is how he acts towards his teammates. What does he say when a teammate strikes out or misses an easy catch?
I’ll never forget a fifth grade soccer game my son played in. It was the last one of the season. The game was tied, last quarter, and my son made the winning goal…for the other team. Devastation is putting it mildly, and we both could have crawled in a hole. While most of the boys were fussing at him, one teammate came up to him, patted him on the back, and told him it was no big deal. Don’t worry about it.
Mercy. The only thing standing between my son and total self-loathing. Mercy is the one thing that can take a person already aware of their depravity and lift them up to human status. We have the power to make or break the way a person feels about themselves and their circumstances by whether or not we show them mercy. Not only that, but the Bible makes it clear that what goes around comes around. To those who are merciful, mercy will be shown to them. Simple.
So I’m curious. How do you explain mercy in your family? What are some practical ways you are teaching your kids to show mercy in the everyday? I’d love to hear about in the comments section below.