What does it mean to be merciful? A merciful person is someone, who opens his heart to others, who takes part in the suffering and need of others and helps. Mercy sees and perceives its neighbor and can empathize with others. A character trait that we urgently need in our society. We need people who not only think of themselves and their own benefit, who do not primarily have their own well-being in mind, but are also there for others and love those who are not doing so well.
“Be merciful as your Father is merciful!” Jesus urges us in Luke 6:36.
This verse led me to think about the difference between divine and human mercy. God’s mercy is much greater and goes much further than our human mercy. He is the Father of Mercy, that is how he is described in the Bible. He is the merciful and gracious God. The story of the prodigal son expresses his mercy:
A father has two sons. The younger son demands his inheritance from his father. As soon as he receives it, he moves away and squanders the money abroad. Sunk into a beggar, he works as a swineherd and is so hungry that he longs ruefully back for his father’s house and resolves to confess his sin to his father and ask him for a job as a laborer. When he actually returns home, the father is so happy about his son’s return that he hardly lets him finish and takes him back straight away. He dresses him festively and throws a big party. When the older son, who has served the father faithfully all along, complains about the behavior of the father, the latter replies: “My child, you are always with me, and everything that is mine is also yours. But now we have to be happy and have a party; for your brother was dead and is alive again; he was lost and has been found again ”. You can read the whole story here: Luke 15: 11-32
God’s mercy is an undeserved but generous giving in unconditional love, it is therefore a gift. God turns to the repentant Son in love, with a gracious, forgiving look. He does not judge him or punish him for his faults and guilt. So God rejoices in every person, in every sinner who repents and comes home to the Father. God is merciful and kind even to people who stray astray, walk ungodly ways in order to lead them back to God’s fatherly love. How can we ourselves be merciful like the Father and live mercy in our everyday lives? Our mercy is limited by our own human power. As long as someone is kind to us, we are there for others, but what if we are hurt or treated badly? Being good to people from whom we do not expect good is not easy. When we help, we expect help in return; when someone hurts us, we tend to have negative feelings like vengeance rather than mercy. From a human perspective, mercy is mostly conditional. Divine mercy, on the other hand, gives without expecting anything in return, cannot be earned, but is a gift. Divine mercy is always ready to forgive, it is unconditional and does not attribute faults.
“And if you love those who love you, what thanks do you have? For also love the sinners who love them. And if you do good to those who do you good, what kind of gratitude do you have? The sinners do the same too. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive again, what gratitude do you have? Sinners also loan sinners so that they may receive the same thing again. But love your enemies and do good and lend without hoping for anything again! And your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. ”Luke 6, 32-35
In order to practice such mercy in our lives, we must first have experienced mercy from God ourselves. Experienced mercy of God fills us with thanks and joy. When we understand that we need God’s mercy, that we are weak and in need of help and salvation, and the great sacrifice God has made for us, then we can be merciful ourselves.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” John 3:16
“Because God is so gracious, he saved you by faith. And that is not your own merit; it is a gift from God ”Ephesians 2.8
“Yet God is so merciful and loved us so much that he gave new life to us who were dead through our sins with Christ when he raised him from the dead. Only by the grace of God were you saved. ”Ephesians 2: 4-5
When we accept the gift of his mercy for ourselves, we grow in the desire to pass this gift on to our fellow human beings, and through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us, we can do so too.
“Happy are the merciful, for they will experience mercy.”Matthew 5: 7
“Good things and mercy will follow me all my life, and I will abide in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23: 6