Mercy. A word with which some of us are so familiar, and yet others of us hardly feel acquainted with. What does it mean to show mercy, or to be shown mercy to?
A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to play the keyboard for a camp that I attend every year. One of the songs that we played was the song posted below, “Mercy Tree” by Anthony Evans. If you’re able to watch the video below, I would strongly encourage you to do so as I believe that it’s really going to drive home the points that I make in this post. If however, for some reason, you are unable to watch the video, I encourage you to read through the lyrics here: “Mercy Tree” lyrics by Anthony Evans.
Isaiah 53:7-8 says: “He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off—and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people.” (The MSG Paraphrase)
In Matthew 27:28-30, we read: “They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.” (NIV)
Two-thousand years ago, God sent his Son, his one and only Son, to our home, to earth, to be mocked, rejected, beaten, and crucified, naked on a cross for all to see. Now I ask you, why would God do such a thing? Why would an omniscient (all-knowing) God willingly send his son to earth when he knew the amount of pain and shame that his son would go through?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” – John 3:16a (NIV)
“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.” – Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)
I’ll tell you why. He did it because of his love for us and because of his mercy towards us. He did it because if he had not, every single person that has ever lived, is living, or will live would have to spend eternity in Hell, separated from him. Check these verses out:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” – Ephesians 2:1-3 (NIV)
Every one of us was as good as dead. We were deserving of wrath. We were all on our way to Hell and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. But because God loves us, he was willing to send his son to earth and he was willing to allow his son to die in the most shameful way possible so that we would not have to be eternally separated from him. So that we would not have to bear the consequences for our sin. You want to know what mercy is? That’s mercy.
But now, what should our response be to the mercy of God? Now that we have been made alive through Christ, what are God’s expectations for us? Well, let’s find out.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” – Romans 12:1 (NIV)
First of all, God expects a complete transformation in our hearts and lives. He expects us to offer ourselves to him as a living sacrifice. The New Oxford American dictionary defines sacrifice as the following: an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. So basically, God wants us to die to ourselves and to our sin (Luke 9:23). He wants us to realize that, as our creator and father, he knows what’s best for us, and what’s best for us is him. He wants us to understand that there is no way for us to find greater fulfillment or greater joy in life than we find when we live a life completely sold out to him, a life in which we present ourselves as a living sacrifice to him.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” – Matthew 5:7 (NIV)
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14 (NIV)
Secondly, God wants us, as believers, to be a people known for its willingness to forgive and to show mercy, both to those that deserve it and to those that don’t. Because the fact of the matter is that we don’t deserve the mercy or the forgiveness that we have received from God. But he gave it to us anyway.
So let’s offer ourselves up to God as living sacrifices. Let’s look for ways that we can show mercy to those to those that reject us, to those that hurt us (whether it be physically or emotionally), and let’s forgive–even when it’s hard. Because I can guarantee you, what they have done to you does not even compare to what you have done to God.