Dear Brethren,

How important is it for a Christian to be merciful?  Do we really know what mercy is, and realize our need for it?  Does God have mercy / loving kindness for all mankind?  How merciful is God?  What must we do to receive the mercy we need?   How do we practice mercy?

Michael H. Hart in his book, "The 100 - A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons In History," showed remarkable insight in his evaluation of the way men often profess their Faith - and then fail to practice it.  He did not place Jesus first in influence.

Michael Hart wrote:

"Now these ideas [of Jesus] which were not a part of the Judaism of Jesus' day, nor of most other religions - are surely among the most remarkable and original ethical ideas ever presented.  If they were widely followed, I would have no hesitation in placing Jesus first in this book.  But the truth is that they are not widely followed.  In fact, they are not even generally accepted.  Most Christians consider the injunction to "Love your enemy" as - at most - an ideal which might be realized in some perfect world, but one which is not a reasonable guide to conduct in the actual world we live in.  We do not normally practice it, do not expect others to practice it, and do not teach our children to practice it.  Jesus' most distinctive teaching, therefore, remains an intriguing but basically untried suggestion." (page 50-51)

We as true Christians must put the words of Jesus into practice.  Jesus gave us this straightforward principle.  He said that in order for us to expect to receive His mercy - we must demonstrate our willingness to extend mercy to others.

"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."  (Matthew 5:7)

The oncept of mercy is not easy to grasp - but God says that it is one of His absolute requirements.  God is merciful.  The phrase, "His mercy endures forever," appears nearly one hundred times in the Scriptures.  Therefore, we must also be merciful.  If it were not for the mercy of God - mankind would have long ago been destroyed for its sins.  There is no sacrifice we can offer to cover our sins - let alone, the sins of the world.  We must put on mercy.

"But go ye and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."  (Matthew 9:13)

This clearly shows us that God's priority is mercy - not only His mercy - but our demonstration of mercy as well.  Jesus Christ made a statement that certainly astounded His disciples.  What He said is almost impossible to understand and certainly impossible to do for the typical human being.  Even many among the Churches of God seem to have had difficulty in recent years hearing and following this simple but vital teaching of our Lord.  Admittedly, it is not natural for us.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."  (Matthew 5:43-45)

Christ reminded His disciples that God is merciful and therefore, we, who wish to be His children, must be also. The Most High Himself sees humanity very differently from the way we humans tend to see our fellow man, and even our Brethren in the Church, if we are not careful.

"As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.  For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:13-14)

Because God is merciful, He forgives when we do not deserve it.  He feeds and clothes billions of His future children, who have yet to understand even the simplest of His truths. He has loving kindness, even to those who may actually be openly hostile to Him, His way, and His children.  As Christ said, He "sends rain on the just and on the unjust." 

In spite of thousands of years of mankind's open rebellion against God and His way, He still watches over humanity, His future children.  God does plan to correct that rebellion and looks forward to the time when humanity does come to Him  for mercy.  In the great story of mercy that we read about in Hosea, Paul concludes:

"For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all .  O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments, and His ways past finding out!"  (Rom 11:32-33)

David paid great tribute to God's mercy in Psalm 136, which must be read slowly in order to appreciate the repeated refrain "For His mercy endures forever." Humanly, we have difficulty with the idea of that much mercy or that it would be available always.

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." (verse 1)

"To Him who led His people through the wilderness, For His mercy endures forever." (verse 16)

"Who remembered us in our lowly state, For His mercy endures forever." (verse 23)

"Who gives food to all flesh, For His mercy endures forever." (verse 25)

David learned of God's mercy, especially as he experienced it in his own life and saw it in God's blessing of Israel.

"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.  He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.  He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities." (Psalm 103:8-10)

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins is a living demonstration of how merciful and forgiving God is toward us. When we have eyes to see, we find His mercy in even the smallest details of our lives.  Christ emphasized this aspect of God's nature in teaching us how to live.  He instructs us to practice mercy.

"Be you therefore merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.  For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."  (Luke 6:36-38)

How we treat others will be the standard God uses in dealing with us.  We should be kind, considerate, serving, and giving to others.  In many cases, things we would like to say, we should refrain from saying, especially when we do not have all the facts (or at least not enough of them).  We all stumble and make mistakes - do we give mercy to the same degree we hope God will be merciful to us?  If we are not careful to remember mercy, how can we expect to receive it?  

"For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment."  (James 2:13)

To become like God, we must learn to think and act as He does.  In the practice of mercy we must be "swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19).   God is merciful on all, we must be merciful, as He is merciful.