Summary: God is merciful and calls us to be as well. But what does mercy look like and how can we know when we've gotten it right?
OPEN: I once read the true story of a preacher was organizing an evangelistic outreach using small acts of kindness to demonstrate Christ's love. He phoned several neighborhood grocery stores and Laundromats for permission to do specific services.
On one call, the employee who answered the phone hesitated, then said, "I'll need to ask the manager, but first, let me make sure I understand: You want to clean up the parking lot, retrieve shopping carts hold umbrellas for customers, and you don't want anything in return."
"Yes, that's right," the preacher replied.
After a few moments the employee returned to the phone.
"I'm sorry," he said, "we can't let you do that because if we let you do it, we'd have to let everyone else do it, too!"
(Ann Jeffries, Kansas City, KS Christian Reader, "Lite Fare.")
Now, isn’t that odd?
Here’s a church that was willing to show God’s love to a grocery store, and the store won’t let them do it because they’re afraid they’ll have to let other groups do the same thing.
Now why did that store respond like that?
Because NO ONE does stuff like that!
This church was obviously out for something… an ulterior motive. And the grocery store was right. The church did have an ulterior motive - they wanted to reach their world for Christ and the tool they were using was something called “showing mercy.”
Paul writes: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is… showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6 & 8
The first question that came to my mind was: what exactly IS mercy?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Mercy is:
2 a : a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion (that’s what God does)
3 : compassionate treatment of those in distress (that’s what people do).
Basically, mercy is the act of getting your hands dirty helping others. Mercy is where a person visits the shut-ins, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked. This goes beyond “giving money” to these people. It’s where a person who shows mercy by DOING the act of helping. And they do this act without expecting to be paid to do it.
Now-why should we be merciful?
Well, we should be merciful, because we serve a God who is a “merciful God.”
"Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant
and MERCY for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
Deuteronomy 7:9 NKJV
• For the LORD is good; His MERCY is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100:5
• Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His MERCY endures forever. Psalm 118:29
• AND in the most famous psalm where David tells us “The Lord is my shepherd", he ends the psalm with these words: “Surely goodness and MERCY shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.” Psalm 23:6
We serve a merciful God. But the verses I quoted only give us a small indication of what His mercy is like. In Ephesians 2:4-7 we hear these powerful words:
“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.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
When God saved us He showed us His immense and immeasurable mercy.
And we become like God – we grow up to be like Him - when we learn to show His kind of mercy to others.
There’s an example of God’s kind of mercy in Mark 1:40-42. There we’re told that a leper came to Jesus, and knelt before Him and said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.”
One preacher commented on this story by saying “The amazing part of this healing is how Jesus did it - Jesus TOUCHED him!”
You didn’t touch lepers. They were unclean! If you touched them, you became unclean and no one wanted that! But Jesus TOUCHED this man.
ILLUS: Philip Yancey tells the story of Dr. Paul Brand who devoted his life to treating leprosy patients in India. In the course of one examination Brand laid his hand on the patient’s shoulder and informed him through a translator of the treatment that lay ahead.