Agents of Mercy

In the midst of a Covid-19 pandemic that has already gone on way too long along with the outrage and rioting mentioned in my last blog post published two days ago titled, In the Age of Outrage,” most of us have viewed the protesters and the riot scenes from our TV screens or social media accounts, and many of us have managed to evade the specter of Covid-19 whenever we step outside while donning our face masks and practicing social distancing for yet another day.

During this time, conflicts have erupted around the country whether it’s dealing with pandemic issues or the #cancelculture#defundthepolice , #blacklivesmatter, and #whitewokeness sectors as well as the continuing riots. In the midst of this we are also in an election year here in America, and in less than 90 days we will be voting for President and other elected officials, and it seems as if our country has never been more divided then it is right now.

If there is one ingredient that is sorely missing that we could use a very large dose of in the midst of everything that is going on, it is mercy. Dictionary.com defines mercy as “compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence” (quote source here).

A devotion I read in Our Daily Bread three days ago titled, God’s Mercy at Work,” by Xochitl Dixon, author, speaker, and blogger at xedixon.com, brings the topic of mercy closer to home in a way that we can personally relate to it:

My anger percolated when a woman mistreated me, blamed me, and gossiped about me. I wanted everyone to know what she’d done—wanted her to suffer as I’d suffered because of her behavior. I steamed with resentment until a headache pierced my temples. But as I began praying for my pain to go away, the Holy Spirit convicted me. How could I plot revenge while begging God for relief? If I believed He would care for me, why wouldn’t I trust Him to handle this situation? Knowing that people who are hurting often hurt other people, I asked God to help me forgive the woman and work toward reconciliation.

The psalmist David understood the difficulty of trusting God while enduring unfair treatment. Though David did his best to be a loving servant, King Saul succumbed to jealousy and wanted to murder him (1 Samuel 24:1–2). David suffered while God worked things out and prepared him to take the throne, but still he chose to honor God instead of seeking revenge (vv. 3–7). He did his part to reconcile with Saul and left the results in God’s hands (vv. 8–22).

When it seems others are getting away with wrongdoing, we struggle with the injustice. But with God’s mercy at work in our hearts and the hearts of others, we can forgive as He’s forgiven us and receive the blessings He’s prepared for us. (Quote source here.)

We live in a culture that seeks revenge instead of reconciliation when we are unfairly treated or perceive that an injustice has been done to us or those we care about. The propensity for us to want to hurt others who have hurt us is great, as the author mentioned in the devotion above. However, for those of us who consider ourselves to be Christians, revenge is not an option–ever.

An article published on June 15, 2009 titled, A Clean Slate: How to Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt You,” by Insight for Living staff members (no specific author is mentioned) states the following:

Walking closely with the Lord means we must come to terms with forgiving others.  Yes, must. We can’t avoid or deny the fact that relationships often bring hurt and the need to forgive. Whether we have been wronged by another or the responsibility is ours, Ephesians 4:31-32 beautifully summarizes how we can have a clear conscience and be free to love and serve God with all our heart:

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV)

In different stages in our life, we may be confronted with the difficult task of forgiveness. The following steps help us get started toward a choice of obedience and godly love.

Cultivate a Heart of Forgiveness

  1. Deepen your understanding of God’s forgiveness through Bible study and meditation. God has been astoundingly, absurdly generous to us. Let that grace prompt humility and gratitude. See Romans 5:8.
  2. Learn to recognize the signs of a forgiving heart: letting go of the need for punishment, looking at the offender with pity and compassion, and choosing to reach out in love.
  3. Learn to respond well when old feelings come back. Rely upon the Shepherd’s help to change your heart. Turn (repent), tune in to the Shepherd’s voice (depend), and travel His path for us (obey).

Steps to Forgiveness

  1. First, realize that forgiveness is risky. Even a repentant offender is likely to fail again, perhaps in the same area.
  2. Second, rely on God. Cry out, “Lord, I lean on You for the grace and strength to love this one who has hurt me and to work for what is best for him [her/them].”
  3. Third, actually cancel the debt. Through prayer, express to God that you relinquish the right to collect debt on any level and to release your bitterness.
  4. Fourth, evaluate whether you should tell the offender what you have done before God.
  5. Fifth, if appropriate, verbally offer them forgiveness. If they repent, your relationship can resume. If not, the relationship cannot be resumed; but with forgiveness offered, good can be returned for evil (Romans 12:21).

What If Forgiveness Can’t Be Had?

If you want to make things right with someone you’ve hurt [or who has hurt you], but they are unavailable, allow God’s forgiveness to suffice. Trust Him to intervene on your behalf to ease any heartache you have caused. It may help to confess your sin to a trusted friend.

If the person is available but refuses to forgive you, ask yourself, Does their refusal indicate that I haven’t genuinely repented? Test yourself by the standards found in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11. If genuine, then God’s forgiveness is sufficient. Realize, too, that forgiveness can be a process. They may need time to be willing to forgive. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on December 20, 2017, titled, 4 Reasons to Show Mercy to Others,” by Rick Warren, Founder and Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church, he writes:

God wants you to be an agent of mercy in the world.

Everyone needs mercy because everyone has messed up. We’ve all hurt other people and made mistakes. We’ve all sinned and we all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups as a result of the mistakes we’ve made.

Mercy changes the lives of people who have made mistakes, and we who have received mercy freely can change the world around us by showing mercy to others.

Here are four reasons to keep showing mercy to others.

1. Show mercy to others because God has been merciful to you.

The Bible says that God is merciful. It is emphasized all throughout the Bible. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of verses that talk about God’s mercy and his love, his compassion, and his grace.

Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace you have been saved” (GNT).

The point of that Scripture is this: God wants me to act in the same way to other people.

2. Show mercy to others because God commands you.

In Micah 6:8, God speaks through the prophet to give us three big instructions for our lives. “The LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (NLT).

God says if you want a summary of what life’s all about, and if you’re going to be in his family, this is what’s required of you: You need to do what is right with others, to love being merciful to others, and to live humbly in fellowship with God.

One third of God’s requirement for you on this planet is to learn mercy. Why? Because God is merciful.

3. Show mercy because you’re going to need more mercy in the future.

You’re not going to be perfect between now and when you get to Heaven. The Bible tells us we cannot receive what we are unwilling to give.

James 2:13 says, “You must show mercy to others, or God won’t show mercy to you . . . But the person who shows mercy can stand without fear at the judgment” (NCV).

Don’t you want to be able to do that on judgment day? To be able to stand without fear on judgment day? It says the person who shows mercy can stand without fear on the judgment day.

It isn’t the people who have kept more rules than anyone else who get to face their eternity with the greatest confidence. It is believers who have shown mercy to other people.

4. Show mercy because it produces happiness.

Showing mercy brings happiness. The Bible teaches over and over that the more merciful I am, the happier I’m going to be.

Proverbs 14:21 says, “If you want to be happy, be kind to the poor; it is a sin to despise anyone” (GNT).

Being kind to other people actually blesses you and makes you happier in life. And mercy certainly produces greater joy in those to whom you’ve shown it.

Would you rather live in a world that is harsh or a world where the people around you value mercy?

You get to help shape a world of mercy around you and allow more people to find freedom from their past when you’re willing to show mercy. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on October 15, 2017, titled, Being Agents of Mercy, by Steve Williams, Co-Senior Pastor at Northpointe Community Church, he gives us several passages from the Bible to bring home the message of how we can be “agents of mercy” in our world today:

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (TLB) God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him. For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you — be reconciled to God.

Increasing your ‘mercy quotient’

James 5:11 (NLT) The Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

1. Consciously turn the focus away from yourself.

Philippians 2:4 (TEV) Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.

2. Don’t be put off by others’ wrong choices.

Jude 1:22-23 (TLB) Try to help those who argue against you. Be merciful to those who doubt. Save some by snatching them as from the very flames of hell itself. And as for others, help them to find the Lord by being kind to them, but be careful that you yourselves aren’t pulled along into their sins. Hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners.

1 Peter 4:8 (ICB) Most importantly, love each other deeply. Love has a way of not looking at others’ sins.

Matthew 9:10-13 (NLT) Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

3. Be sure you respect your word power!

Colossians 4:6 (CEV) Be pleasant and hold their interest when you speak the message. Choose your words carefully and be ready to give answers to anyone who asks questions.

James 3:17 (TLB) The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure and full of quiet gentleness. Then it is peace-loving and courteous. It allows discussion and is willing to yield to others; it is full of mercy…

4. Value caring for persons above pious practices in your faith journey.

Matthew 23:23 (NLT) “…You teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income …but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”

Staying on the lookout with Jesus

Matthew 9:36 (NIV) When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Persons caught up in crisis.

Galatians 6:2 (GW) Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Christ’s teachings.

Those with unmet needs we can help.

Romans 15:1-3 (MSG) Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.

People in grief we can comfort.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT) God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Persons needing friendly hospitality.

Romans 12:13 (NJB) Look for opportunities to be hospitable.

Matthew 25:36 (Phi) “…I was lonely and you made me welcome…”

Someone needing a second chance.

2 Corinthians 2:7 (CEV) When people sin, you should forgive and comfort them, so they won’t give up in despair.

Those especially rude & difficult.

1 Peter 3:9 (CEV) Don’t be hateful and insult people just because they are hateful and insult you. Instead, treat everyone with kindness. You are God’s chosen ones, and he will bless you. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words of Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:7 (GNT): Happy are those who are merciful to others…

God . . .

Will be merciful . . .

To them . . . .

YouTube Video: “Mercy Came Running” by Phillips, Craig and Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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