In our last study, we dived into the grace of God. We looked at how God showed grace and how he still shows grace today. We studied this to see how we can be more like the example Christ left for us to follow. This time, we are going to continue this study, but on a different topic. The topic of mercy. God has showed mercy many times in the bible, and we are going to look at some of those examples today. So let us begin the intriguing study of God’s mercy.
Mercy and grace are often confused, so let’s look at each one separately before we begin the study of mercy. Two really easily definitions appear, when we look at both grace and mercy. They are:
Grace: Receiving what you don’t deserve.
Mercy: Not receiving what you deserve.
So, we received grace when Jesus died on the cross because that now gives us a hope of eternal life (Romans 6:23). We never deserved that sacrifice because we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but that’s where God’s grace comes into play. He loved us enough to send his only Son to die on the cross (John 3:16), therefore he showed grace by doing that. But what about mercy? Has he shown us mercy? Absolutely. Mercy is not receiving something that you deserve. If the wages of sin is spiritual death, then what we deserve is eternal punishment. However let’s look at what John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Here John says that whoever believes (and obeys) Jesus will have eternal life. Therefore by doing this, we do not receive what we deserve, which is the definition of mercy. Here we see an amazing amount of mercy shown by God to his creation.
Now let’s look at some more examples of mercy shown by God. In the parable of the Unmerciful Servant, a huge act of mercy is shown. Let’s read some of it to get a better understanding. Matthew 18:23-27 says, ““Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.”” Now as the story goes, this same servant met another man who owed him debt as well, but he was not so merciful. He had him thrown in prison until he could pay it off. Here we have an example of showing mercy, and one who does not show mercy. Now let’s put ourselves into the story. Who would we want to be in the situation of mercy? The servant who’s master cancelled the debt, or the man who was thrown in prison until he could pay it off? Probably the servant who’s master cancelled the debt. Well, whether you realize it or not, we are that servant. God is the master and we are the servant. With the sacrifice of Christ, God forgives us of our debt (in our case, sin) and wants to hear no more of them. Just as 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Paul is also another example of God’s mercy. Paul calls himself “the worst of sinners” in 1 Timothy 1:15. 1 Timothy 1:13 says, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” Here we see that Paul did not receive what he deserved. Why? Because he was shown mercy by the Lord. Paul is a wonderful example of how God shows mercy on us.
Another example that may not be commonly known is the example of mercy shown on Epaphroditus. In Philippians 2:27 Paul writes, “Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow.” Paul explains to the Philippians that Epaphroditus was sick, and almost died. But God had mercy on him and allowed him to live. This also, Paul says, affected him, to save him more sorrow. So mercy can also have a rippling effect on people.
Another example lies in Genesis 19:16. At this time Sodom and Gomorrah are being destroyed. Lot and his family live in Sodom, and God shows mercy on them by allowing them to escape the total destruction. Genesis 19:16 says, “When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.” Since they were faithful to the Lord, he allowed them to escape with the help of two angels. Even in total annihilation, God still finds a way to show mercy on people.
We have looked at several examples of how God shows mercy, but he is not the only one who should show it. We should too. Jesus says in Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” We should also show mercy, because God has shown us mercy by sending his Son.
James says in James 2:13, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” What James is trying to say here is that, if it wasn’t for the mercy of God, we would all be judged to eternal punishment. (However, if we believe in Christ, and obey the word of God, eternal life is our destination). But he showed us mercy, therefore mercy triumphs over judgment.
In all of the examples we’ve looked at, there has been acts of mercy. God has shown us mercy too many times than we deserve. We must also know that we too need to show mercy to those around us. Just as Jesus claims in Matthew 5:7, ““Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”” If we are merciful towards others, we will receive mercy. Christ says in Matthew 9:13, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” The calling of sinners here is the mercy that Christ desired. Let us also be merciful.