I saw a sign driving recently that read, “Year of Mercy.” It stopped me because of the association I have with the word mercy. I love the implications of the mercy as a loyal love. Pope Francis declared last Easter that 2016 would be a year of mercy. Quoting theologian Cardinal Kasper, he said that mercy itself “is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient.”
Mercy implies a love that continues to be given even when the receiver of that love does not deserve it. For mercy to even exist, it assumes that the one receiving love has either not been loyal or has little to give in return. We would not need mercy if it were not for our disloyalty and insufficiency. While grace is the reason we thrive, mercy is why God allows us to even live.
Mercy keeps our heart beating and lungs breathing when both should have stopped the first time we disobeyed God. Yet the fascinating thing about mercy is after experiencing the mercy of God toward us, He expects us to show mercy to others. Scripture tells us that the expression of mercy is the demonstration of the Christian’s victory in Christ over the judgment we deserve. James 2:13 reads, “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” This verse provides us with a choice and it should be a relatively easy one. When one chooses not to show mercy, judgment is not withheld. Yet mercy triumphs over judgment. It is confident in its superiority over judgment so much so that it always assumes mercy is the right choice.
However, if we are being honest with ourselves there are instances that even in the light of the mercy we have received it is hard to extend mercy to those who have hurt us or disappointed us. This, I believe, is why God gave us the OT book of Hosea. God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute and to have children, the first of which they named Lo-ruhama which means “she has not received mercy” (Hos 1:6). God gives the child that name to demonstrate how the unfaithfulness of Israel is warrant for God to withhold mercy. Yet, God who is rich in love ultimately desires to show mercy to His people and relent in His judgment. His priority is always mercy over judgment. But God does not give what His people refuse to receive and likewise give. Following this model, may 2016 and the years to come be times in which we receive and give mercy with open arms.