"Mercy!" Mama used to exclaim when she was surprised or alarmed.
Commonly heard a generation or so ago, this expression was probably a shortened version of a plea for God's mercy on any calamitous event. We don't hear it so often these days. Is that perhaps because we no longer rely so heavily on the mercy of God?
People have become independent and self-reliant.
When I memorized Psalm 23 in my youth, the assurance that "goodness and mercy [would] follow me all the days of my life" (Psalm 23:6, KJV) helped me to feel confident of my future. I leaned heavily on the comforting presence of a good and merciful God to guide me through life.
Moses believed in a merciful God. He said, "O satisfy us early with thy mercy" (Psalm 90:14, KJV). David, too, exclaimed over the mercy of God, "I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing" (Psalm 101:1, KJV).
Jonah also knew God's mercy and complained about it when, in his anger, he wanted God to judge Nineveh for its wickedness. "I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness" (Jonah 4:2, KJV).
Most of us would agree that God is merciful, even though when trouble comes, the first thing we do is point a finger at God and ask, "Why did You do this to me?" Does God really bring tragedy? Is it His fault when calamity strikes? He doesn't cause it, but He allows it. His desire is that pain and trials will drive us to a more perfect relationship with Him.
Jesus himself advised His disciples to show mercy.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, He taught that we should love our neighbors and be merciful to them (Luke 10:25-37). He also instructed us to love our enemies and be merciful to them (Luke 6:27-36).
In Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV), Jesus tells His followers a story, the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. This servant owed his king a huge debt. When the king wanted to settle his affairs, he called his servant and asked to be paid. The servant began to beg and plead, saying that he could not pay back the debt he owed. So the king forgave the debt, erasing it from his debtors' book.
When the servant left the king's court, he encountered an acquaintance who owed him money.
The debt was a small one. However, the servant took his friend by the throat and demanded immediate payment. When his friend pleaded that he could not pay, the servant had him thrown into the debtors prison until the debt would be paid.
Of course, the servant's actions were reported to the king. In fury, the king reinstated the servant's debt until the last penny was paid. Jesus concluded His story with these words: "‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart'" (v. 35). We cannot expect to live under God's mercy if we refuse to be merciful to others.
Mercy, me! Am I showing a merciful attitude to others, as much as God has shown mercy to me?
© 2015 Sylvia Stewart