A well-known Bible text says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Does this mean that if we are good to others, they will be good to us? Unfortunately this is not the case, as has been proven any number of times in my life and most likely yours as well. If that is not what the text means, then what does it mean, and how can a person that has been battered by organized religion use this text in their lives?
YOU are the subject of the first phrase-“Blessed are the merciful.” God or your higher power (however you choose to identify the creator of the universe) is the subject of the second phrase-“for they shall obtain mercy.” Mercy is an attribute of God/higher power/Creator. Mercy must become an attribute of the person that believes in a higher being.
Mercy is an attitude-not something that you can turn on and off or choose when to exhibit it. It is more than emotionalism and more than the shedding of tears. It is more than humanitarianism, and more than donating to the Salvation Army, the Dorcas Society, or any other charity.
Mercy includes four other attitudes: forgiveness, love, grace and justice. Mercy is infinitely bigger than forgiveness, which is an act of mercy. Love is merciful, although mercy acts out of need while love acts out of affection. There can be love without mercy but it is impossible to have mercy without love. Grace, however, deals with the problem, while mercy eliminates the pain caused by the problem. Outside of the usual Christian translation of how mercy and justice met at the cross, is it possible to balance mercy and justice? Our government justice system does not seem capable of balancing these two attitudes equally with a positive effect. Justice is also an act of mercy, and the term “tough love” comes into the conversation at this point. Justice is an instructional tool; a consequence intended to remind the participant that the action resulting in justice is not acceptable. Indirectly this process is also mercy, as it results in the participant having no excuse for being ignorant about their actions.
Mercy cannot excuse our actions or become a license to do something that is unacceptable in society. Mercy is something that is relatively simple to develop. The first step is to recognize that you have a need for mercy. There is no person that is perfect, and as such, we all are in need of mercy at some point in our journey. The second step is to get to know the source of mercy (discover where mercy comes from, how it is exhibited, etc.).
As the author of the Merchant of Venice stated, “The quality of mercy is not strained.” Mercy cannot be diluted. It is or it isn’t! Mercy holds no grudge, harbours no resentment, and does not take advantage of others. Is there enough mercy in your life?