April 29: Mercy Saw Me

Mercy has to be one of the most beautiful and poignant words known to man. That said, not everyone can hear or experience mercy with the same clarity. For mercy to draw a heart to meaningful experience, that heart must first understand its own need for mercy.

Only someone who sees his need desires mercy, most especially to one under judgment for some misdeed. In Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant, we see that both of the servants needed mercy because they owed a debt too large for them to repay. And when a criminal, having been found guilty, faces sentencing for his crime, he is helpless and only hopes to have a merciful judge, not one who will punish him to the full extent of the law. As believers in the Bible, we know (at least conceptually) that we all need mercy, but not everyone understands this need, and even believers grow in our understanding of both our need and our responsibility in regard to mercy.

Mercy is the opposite of entitlement. We aren’t owed mercy. We can’t earn mercy. Like grace, it is something given despite our merit. Mercy presupposes offense, debt, or that judgment has gone against us, leaving us in the hands of the one we owe. In Luke 18, Jesus pointed out that the sinner who humbly pleaded for mercy received it, while the one who pridefully had no understanding of his need did not.

Mercy is not universally given, it is conditional. This is not to say that God is not long-suffering and merciful to sinners, not giving them what they “deserve” in this life. God is by nature merciful, regardless of the standing of any person. But just as “God is good and loving to ALL He has made,” there is a special goodness, love and mercy which He extends to those who are His own. And those with whom God has mercifully withheld judgment in this life will receive it at “That Day” for God is just, as well as merciful. Only those whose justice was met in Jesus will receive eternal mercy.

God has set up conditions for mercy. The aforementioned parable illustrates this. The mercy of the king was withdrawn when the first servant did not show mercy for the smaller debt owed him, when the king had forgiven the unpayable amount. This is not to say a person loses their salvation if they are not merciful, but one’s salvation is in question when one does not understand the vast depth of mercy God has given to cover one’s own sin. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”

There is a proportion involved here. The amount of mercy we receive from the Lord is proportionate to the amount we have given to others. Too often we act as if there are two scales — we want God to give us full justice and restitution for those who sin against us, but we want complete mercy for the insurmountable ways we’ve offended our holy God. But there will be one scale, proportioned on our ability to give mercy to others.

A book I read on forgiveness gave the illustration that the author envisioned himself standing in line at the Judgment behind the person who had offended him and he was hoping God would lower the boom on the offender and finally give justice for all the wrong done — Justice! Justice! Then, suddenly, the author realized he himself would be next before the throne, and he would be judged by that standard, his tune changed — Mercy! Mercy!

When we keep this quotient in mind, it becomes much easier to release our offenders. But remember, they aren’t being released from God’s justice; He will see to that. They are being released from our own judgment, vengeance and bitterness. What we need to realize is, when we release our grip on them, it is we who are freed. And our hands are now empty to receive the mercy of God — a mercy we SO need!

The lyrics of this song say, “Beautiful, that’s how mercy saw me . . .” When we truly understand the depths of our sin, it is hard to imagine that God, through His mercy, can see us as beautiful. But I want to challenge each of us to take this to the next level: can your eyes see those in need of your mercy as beautiful? Can you get beyond “let bygones be bygones,” which is a mild form of mercy, to the point where your eyes of mercy actually see those who have offended you as lovely? Can you see them as broken and so lost and look past all their faults? Can you see beyond what they were to what God can make them to be? Can you see them through merciful eyes — the eyes through which God sees them?

Hard? Yes! But if we want God to look at us with that level of mercy, we need to strive to extend that mercy to others. The only way to do that is through the cross. We grow in mercy as we remember how desperate we are for it ourselves, making us able to extend it to others.

by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries