Consider the Illinois man who left the snow filled streets of Chicago for a vacation in Florida. His wife was on a business trip and was planning to meet him the next day. When he reached his hotel he decided to send his wife a quick e-mail. Unable to find the scrap of paper on which he had written her e-mail address, he did his best to type it in from memory. Unfortunately, he missed one letter and his note was directed instead, to an elderly preacher’s wife, whose husband had passed away only the day before. When the grieving widow checked her e-mail, she took one look at he monitor, let out a piercing scream, fell to the floor in faint. “Dearest Wife, Just checked in. Everything prepared for your arrival tomorrow. P.S. Sure is hot down here.”
I find that most believers don’t understand the difference between “grace” and “mercy.” If you looked up grace and mercy in the dictionary you would find very little difference. That is not true in the Bible, there is a difference between the two words. Mercy refers to God’s willingness to remain in covenant with disobedient and rebellious Israel. Mercy therefore is God’s ability to continue to work with us in spite of our sinfulness and unworthiness. Rarely does mercy refer to forgiveness of sins, that is grace. Mercy tolerates, grace forgives!
This mercy is evident in Jesus’ ministry. In the model prayer, Jesus teaches us, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In other words, to the degree that we are willing to forgive others who have wronged us, is the degree that we ourselves will be forgiven. We must be merciful or tolerant of the shortcomings of others if God is to be merciful or tolerant of our shortcomings. Tolerant does not mean “condoning” or “accepting” of the actions. The wife who’s husband has been unfaithful shows mercy to save the marriage and the family.
Jesus tells a parable about mercy. “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 talents 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. “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. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him.
‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt 18:23-35)
Matt 9:13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’
When Jesus accepted Matthew (tax collector) as a disciple, it upset the religious leaders. The religious leaders have a good point, the man is a tax collector! Most of them were friends with the Romans. Many of them were thieves. Those who put pity into action can expect similar mercy both from people and God.
The same sentiment is found in other places in God’s Word. Matt 10:42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” Nowhere do we imitate God more than in showing mercy. All the blessings we enjoy are proofs of God’s mercy. If we, then, show mercy to the poor, the wretched, the guilty, it shows that we are like God.
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy;” “Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven”. Simple Bible, clear and direct.
A messenger was once sent by his king to deliver vital information to a distant city in the kingdom. Since the messenger bore the king’s authority, he was rehearsed over and over to be sure he had the message right and could deliver it without error. At the appointed time, the messenger set out upon his journey of many days. The first day went well, with good speed and few distractions. At the end of it the messenger again rehearsed the information in his care, to keep it fresh and accurate. On the second day the messenger met a lost child who begged to be restored to her family, and though not without anxiety about the cost of time and concentration, he took the child along a different route to find her home. That night he rehearsed the message with greater difficulty and the beginnings of concern that he might have lost small parts of it. The third day brought the messenger into a village whose well had gone dry, leaving its inhabitants too weak even to send for help. They begged him to take word to the next town, lest they all perish of thirst and disease, and the messenger reluctantly agreed to do so. That night the message was in parts unclear and his worry increased. Each day thereafter found the messenger more distracted, more interrupted. People talked to him, beseeched him, clutched at him, and in his decency he responded as best he could. But each evening, when he rehearsed the king’s message, it became less accurate, less clear. When he finally reached his destination, he was in agony, for he knew that he could not deliver what he had been sent to say, and he knew too that the penalty for his carelessness would be severe. To the governor of the distant town he presented himself and told his tale, reciting in succession the agonies that had distracted him, beating his breast in repentance for getting himself so misled from his sworn duty as agent of the king, and ending with his confession that he could not now say the vital words he had so carefully rehearsed in the king’s presence. The governor reached out to the by now trembling messenger and bade him rise from where he had fallen in his shame and fear. “You were not the only messenger, my son,” he said. “Our king, on the day of your departure dispatched yet another servant, unskilled in memory or perception but carrying in written form the same message entrusted to you. My Dear Governor: There is great suffering in the land, but our people’s hearts are hardened. I must find someone with eyes to see, a will to respond, and the courage to share the pain that lies about us to act as my vicar. Pray, tell me if you have such a person, and send him to me at all speed, for the time is short and the responsibility heavy. The messenger looked up in confusion; his understanding grew as the governor said, “Until you came, I had no such person to send, but now it is clear that you are he. Return to the royal service of your king, for you have brought the message ten times over and more clearly than ever you rehearsed it.”