We talk a lot about mercy in the Christian faith but most of us don’t really understand exactly all that it means.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Like a lot of the words that Jesus used, it has a lot of depth to it. We talk about justice and grace when we talk about mercy, but Jesus used another word in close connection with it. His word was compassion.
Mercy and compassion are kind of joined at the hip. Compassion is something that we feel, while mercy is something that we do. Jesus felt compassion but He showed mercy to those whom He felt for.
Mercy takes many forms. Some of us have sympathy and empathy for those who are in need. This is how all of that works: sympathy is knowing that there are hungry children in our community. Empathy is feeling sorry for them. That is compassion. Mercy, however, is filling hungry people’s cupboards with food so they have something to eat.
Sympathy is knowing that someone is hurting. Empathy means feeling their pain. That is compassion. Mercy is coming alongside of them and getting them back on their feet.
Jesus saw our problem and had compassion on us. He saw our anguish and felt the pain that we feel. So, He became one of us and did something about it. He wept, He healed, He taught, comforted and embraced mankind while we were at our worst.
But, then, He gave His own life for ours and dragged us out of the mire. That’s compassion, it’s sympathy and empathy but, more importantly, it is mercy.
That’s what we mean by the mercy of the Lord.