What is Mercy?

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Mercy is one of those concepts that I’ve struggled with for years because I understand meritocracy and tend to thrive in situations that are merit-based. I love the idea that you are rewarded for the good things that you do and punished for the bad things that you do. It’s symmetrical and feels unbiased to me. This is a system that I can understand and can work the rules to my benefit.

Mercy is a different story. It’s one of those things that is entirely dependent upon someone other than me. It’s out of my control and is based on the decisions of another.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)

In Micah 6:8, God commands us to love mercy, which is not something that comes naturally to me. Loving mercy isn’t something that I immediately gravitate to, but is something I have to work on.

I think that loving mercy can only be achieved if we are looking at ourselves instead of looking outside of us. When our focus is on the external and the actions of others, it’s easy to not love mercy. It’s easier to see how they messed up and how they deserve to be punished. It’s easy to blame another so that focus is not on you.

But when we choose to focus on ourselves and our deep need for God, then it only makes sense for us to love mercy. When I take off my skewed filter of my own goodness and put on God’s instead, I appreciate mercy even more because I understand that I have fallen short of God’s perfect law. I have sinned and I have messed up more than I can articulate and I am in need of his mercy—as much as I hate to admit it.

Meritocracy fuels my pride. Mercy requires humility.
Meritocracy is in my control. Mercy requires trust.
Meritocracy has rules. Mercy is built upon relationship.

I think that’s the key to this whole verse: God desires a relationship with us. And mercy is the vehicle that got us reconciled with him. If he hadn’t been merciful to us, there would’ve been no hope of us having a restored relationship with him.

And, as uncomfortable as it is, we get to do the same with others. When we love mercy, I think that we will want to give it out as much as humanly possible. But, my guess is that we don’t love mercy as much as we could because we don’t fully understand the extent of our sinfulness. I suspect that if we better understood what God has done for us, then we would love mercy even more.

Let’s spend some time today focusing on the goodness of God and what he’s done for us and see if our love for mercy grows as our relationship with him is strengthened.

Do you love mercy?

Do you think that your love for mercy is proportional to your understanding of what God has done for you?

To go Deeper: Read Contradictions Galore!, Being Good Isn’t Good Enough


  1. In the moment mercy/forgiveness is difficult. Especially when you were the one wronged. However, harboring inforgiveness or withholding mercy only affects us in the long run. It eats us alive. I’ve had to walk through a long difficult process of forgiveness with someone and today on the other side of it I’ve found freedom and even reconciliation because God is that good. I guess all I can say is what is right is very rarely what is easy and that when we forgive we shine just alittle bit more like Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

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