What does it mean to be merciful towards someone? From my understanding, to treat someone with mercy is to deal with them in meekness, patience, and forgiveness. It means gently correcting people when they are doing things that harm themselves or others, as much as it is possible. It means being patience with them as they strive in faith towards overcoming their faults through Christ. It means forgiving them when they fall short and continue in a sin they struggle with.
What mercy does not mean is dealing with someone harshly and without compassion or empathy. It does not mean demeaning them when they continue to struggle with sin because we do not understand righteous judgment. It does not mean we hold onto bitterness, mistrust, and hatefulness towards someone because of their past sin, never letting them move forward victoriously in Christ because we only see them for the faults they once had.
If you are someone who has been treated harshly and without patience and forgiveness by those who call Jesus Christ, “Lord,” then you might have a difficult time finding proper motivation for following Jesus yourself. If you’ve been beat down when you were at your lowest instead of encouraged and supported, if you’ve been labeled because of your past sins, if you’ve been cast out by Christians during the most difficult times in your life – times when you needed the love of Jesus the most – I hope you will understand that those who treat you this way are not a good representation of the mercy of Jesus and of the Christians who follow Him for the right reasons.
A Merciful Heart is Acceptable Worship to God
And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
When we perform outward showing of righteousness, like singing praise songs and attending church, but fail to show mercy towards others, Jesus is not satisfied with our “offerings” of worship.
Where would we be most likely to find Jesus today if he were walking around this world? Would we find him sitting in a church full of well-dressed, self-righteous, holier-than-thou people who look down their noses at those who’s sins are – in their eyes – worse than their own? Or, would we find Jesus walking among the drug-addicted and impoverished communities where people are crying out to God for mercy, but too afraid to go to church for fear of harsh judgment?
God loves mercy, and through Jesus His mercy is given to all who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are forgiven our past sins, and we are shown mercy in the ability to overcome sin and grow in the things of the Kingdom of God, so that we can walk with Christ in this present world. As the Physician, Jesus can heal our innermost wounds and lead us towards a better understanding of his immense love.
Those who think they have it all together already, or most often, those who do not believe in the fullness of the gospel and instead put their faith in their own “declaration of faith” without any real desire to be freed from their sins (because they love their sins while condemning others), have no desire for the Physician, and he is not sent to them. He is sent to people like you – people who know they are sinful and want to learn a better way while growing a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Merciful Obtain God’s Mercy
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
As Christians, we need to remember that everything about our ability to call Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is an act of the mercy of God. It is paramount that we show the same towards others, or we are in danger of judgment. We have to deal with others in meekness, patience, and forgiveness – otherwise we might find God removing us from His mercy and placing us in His wrath – no matter how “good” we think we are.
We can go to church every time the doors are open, perform charitable acts, avoid sinful entertainments, and even hold some kind of office within the Christian community, but if we do not show mercy towards those who struggle with sin – ALL sin, not just the ones we pick and choose – then we are not pleasing God. Some scriptures to consider:
Meekness: Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. – Galatians 6:1
Patience: Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? – Romans 2:4
Forgiveness: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Matthew 6: 14-15
Forgiving the Merciless
For those of us who have been dealt with mercilessly by those of the faith, we should approach Jesus so that he can keep the sins of others from taking root in our own heart, leading to bitterness and hate. Otherwise, we may one day end up treating others the same way. Often times, those who lack mercy have not been shown much mercy themselves, and who knows, by showing mercy to the merciless, you just might end up leading them towards repentance and the mercy of Jesus Christ!
This article is part 2 of the series, “Have You Been Loved By Christians?” which is part of a section entitled, “For Christians Abused by Christians.”