Today’s topic is mercy!
Is there a better topic?
Do we need mercy? How much do we need mercy?
Now, how much are you willing to extend mercy?
Mercy is great when we are on the receiving end, but it can be a burden when we are given the opportunity to extend it.
Remember, these opportunities only happen when we have been hurt in some way.
I was reminded the other day by my uncle about how much we Hugheses often hold grudges.
I’m so grateful my Lord does not, and shouldn’t we be more like Him?
Definition of “mercy.”
“Mercy” is found about 350 times in the Bible—such an important concept!
Mercy is often defined as “not getting what we deserve.”
That’s a fine working definition, but there are other aspects to this that we should mention here this morning.
If you show mercy toward someone, is that not required before forgiving them?
The Greek word implies an action that accompanies the mercy one might bestow.
To distinguish it from a synonym in the Greek, Thayer says it is “to feel sympathy with the misery of another, esp. such sympathy as manifests itself in act, less freq. in word.”
Thayer’s adds to the translation, saying it can mean “to succor the afflicted, to bring help to the wretched.”
So this kind of mercy is not just internal, but external, too.
Definition of “cheerfulness.”
The Greek word for this is where we get the word for “hilarious” – ἱλαρότης.
Thayer translates it as “cheerfulness, readiness of mind.”
Strong’s also translates it as “alacrity,” which I looked up a definition to as well: “promptness in response” and “cheerful readiness.”
It is found only here in the NT, though a related word is found in 2 Cor. 9:7, where it states that “God loves a cheerful giver.”
So, it is to be happy to do something promptly and quickly.
So to be cheerfully merciful means to be ready to help others who do not deserve it.
We have already talked about that sort of thing (helping others) when we talked about ministry and exhortation and giving.
Though it’s remarkable how much of these traits are geared toward helping others.
It’s almost as if our focus need not be strictly internal, but external as well.
And in fact, it transitions well into the next section of Romans 12, when Paul talks about love, being kindly affectionate, and being at peace with one another.
In any event, we will focus on the understanding that we typically have of mercy, that which includes forgiveness and love.
The Need for Mercy.
The Need to Show Mercy.
The Need to Show Mercy Cheerfully.
The Need for Mercy.
Do we need mercy? Oh most definitely.
Do you ever do anything wrong?
Well, I don’t know everything you do, but I’m sure you do because we all do.
The Bible tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23).
It tells us that the wages of sin, what we earn when we go against God’s law, is death (Rom. 6:23).
We have all sinned against him!
But because of His mercy very rarely will we be punished right away.
Mercy and grace are very closely related.
Several weeks ago we talked about grace, how God doesn’t punish us right away when we sin.
We typically think of mercy as no action being taken, no negative consequences for one’s deserving actions.
Grace, on the other hand, is an action awarding something to someone who is undeserving.
In a sense, they are the same, since forgiveness is an action taken, though it results in no negative consequences.
The Lord shows mercy to us every day by allowing us to live, giving us opportunities to repent and to do His will.
He shows us grace by sending His Son to die for us, making His blood available for us all, giving us all the possibility, the hope, of heaven.
The story of the traffic ticket.
Jen Wilkin starts this story by stating that her husband Jeff is an excellent driver. As an adult, he had never had an accident.
Well, Jen was driving across town to get to make an appointment during Friday rush hour traffic. Having waited three cycles to make a left turn at a busy intersection, she accelerated through a yellow light and continued on her way.
A couple of weeks later a ticket came in the mail with photo evidence of her transgression. She had run the red light. Justice dictated that it would take $200 to clear her good name. Or so she thought.
They weren’t quite prepared to pay the $200 at that moment, and her embarrassment over the whole thing caused her to delay to pay the ticket.
Her husband Jeff noticed that the deadline to pay was fast approaching and gave her a gentle reminder.
Well, she was about to leave town, so he generously agreed to get online and handle the payment.
That’s when he discovered that it was not, in fact, her good name that was at stake, but his. Because the car she was driving was in his name, her ticket had been put on his driving record—his excellent driving record.
His response? “It’s taken care of.”
Mercy. He paid her ticket without grumbling, and her guilt was assigned to his record.
In the eyes of the great state of Texas, the demands of justice had been met, albeit by another.
Jen did not receive what she deserved, but her husband did in her place.
That reminds me of the mercy that Christ has shown us by taking the penalty for us by dying on the cross.
But just like Jeff was willing to take the penalty for Jen’s transgression, we should be willing to show mercy as well.
The Need to Show Mercy.
Blessed are the merciful (Matt. 5:7).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us two reasons to be merciful.
The first one is in the Beatitudes.
Jesus says if that we are merciful, we, too, will be shown mercy.
As I said before, we all love mercy when it is shown to us, but we are less inclined to show mercy to others.
After all, they deserve what’s coming to them, right?
You see, we have a tendency to think we deserve mercy, but the other guy doesn’t.
This is also true between people we know or identify with verses those we do not.
“Our friends or those like us deserve mercy, but our enemies do not.”
That reminds me of a story in France in the time of Napoleon told by Luis Palau.
A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death.
“But I don’t ask for justice,” the mother explained. “I plead for mercy.”
“But your son does not deserve mercy,” Napoleon replied.
“Sir,” the woman cried, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.”
“Well, then,” the emperor said, “I will have mercy.” And he spared the woman’s son.
So we see that no one deserves mercy, otherwise it’s not mercy, is it? That’s first.
Second, God is better than we are since He shows no partiality. If you get mercy, so does the other guy.
Yes, we want justice, and the State is well within its rights to dispense that justice impartially, properly, and legally (Rom. 13:1-7).
Yes, we want justice, but there is a fine line between justice and vengeance (Rom. 12:19).
Yes, we want justice, but we should want mercy more.
Recall, Jonah wanted justice dispensed upon the Ninevites, but instead they got mercy.
Mercy and forgiveness (Matt. 6:14-15).
The second reason to be merciful is found here.
You see, mercy and forgiveness are also related.
We will not forgive unless we first show mercy.
Jesus informs us the importance of forgiveness.
As we discussed, if we do not show mercy, we do not get mercy.
Here we see that if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.
We talked about this last year, but it certainly bears repeating.
Recall, mercy and forgiveness require sin. In order for you to have the opportunity to show mercy and to forgive, someone must have done something to hurt you.
Our gut reaction is to strike back, but God calls us to something higher: to show mercy, to forgive… to love.
Mercy and love (Rom. 12:9–13:14).
I’d like to read the rest of this chapter and the next for context.
Love is to be without hypocrisy.
Love is what keeps us from seeking vengeance, encouraging us to seek the good.
We might cry for justice, as is the government’s right to dispense.
I do believe in justice, that justice should be served, as I believe Paul is stating here.
But Paul and I also believe in mercy, forgiveness, and love.
So Paul sandwiches the talk of the government dispensing justice between two discussions on love.
After all, “love is the fulfillment of the law,” that is the law of God.
When we show mercy and forgiveness, this is “summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
True love, godly love does not discriminate.
This is not the love of the world that is accepting of all manner of sinful activity, but a love that is ready to show mercy and to forgive such sin.
The Need to Show Mercy Cheerfully.
Showing mercy is a command; showing mercy cheerfully is a gift.
Recall, Paul is talking about the gifts of grace in this passage.
Not everyone is capable of preaching or serving, of teaching or giving, of exhorting or leading.
But we all have the opportunity to develop such skills.
After all, we all are to serve in some way, we all are to give something, right?
But as we grow, as we mature, as we progress as Christians, we are to grow/mature/progress in all of these areas if we are able.
As God loves a cheerful giver—something that comes with spiritual maturity—He no doubt loves one who is cheerfully merciful.
If you are cheerfully merciful, you will be happy to show mercy.
If you are happy to show mercy, you will not hesitate to do so.
This goes to the second definition of this Greek word.
This includes “readiness of mind,” “alacrity,” and “promptness in response.”
In other words, we will not hesitate to show mercy to others.
Is that easy? Surely not, but this is why it’s a gift that we must develop, that we must work on!
This is the type of person Jesus described when He told His followers to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to give the cloak with the tunic (Matt. 5:39-42).
How do we become cheerfully merciful?
Remember that you were and are in need of mercy today.
Remember that God shows you mercy every day, and no doubt others have shown you mercy, too.
How do I know? You’re still alive, aren’t you?
Your parents have shown you mercy.
Are you married? Have you been married? Your spouse has certainly shown you mercy—think of the Wilkin’s that we talked about earlier.
Mercy helps make life better, doesn’t it? It helps you to live at peace.
You love your spouse, your kids. You might punish your kids, but you still show them mercy. And you’re happy to do it! Why? Because you love them!
I’m not saying we need to love everyone like we love our family, but we do need to love others more.
When we think of all the places where we’ve messed up, God’s mercy should humble us and make us realize we are all deserving of death.
But He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners, His enemies (Rom. 5:8).
Keeping in mind God’s mercy and grace and love should make us more ready to show that mercy, grace, and love to others—and to do so readily!
Mercy is a beautiful thing, and I thank God for it.
I pray you remember His mercy toward you.
And as a result that you share that mercy with others.
His mercy and grace are what save us (Eph. 2:8).
And if we extend that mercy to others, He will be merciful to us.
If we extend that forgiveness to others, He will forgive us.
If we extend love for others, He will abide in us (1 John 4:12).
That grace saves us through faith in His mighty work for us as we have discussed.
He died for us that we might be saved.
Let us have faith in that, a faith in His Son Jesus, a faith that works, a faith that motivates us to obey His gospel.
Help us to repent, to confess His name, and to be baptized if we have not yet done so.
If we have, help us to repent and pray for forgiveness.
Show His mercy and accept His grace by becoming a Christian today!