By Barry Humble

Paul taught in Romans 12 that if our gift is showing mercy, “do it cheerfully.”  Showing mercy is not done out of reluctance or as the last resort but in the same attitude of Christ when he said on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Just as Paul said in verse 9 of Romans 12 that “Love must be sincere” so must our words and acts of mercy be likewise.  Mercy is about showing the love of God above and beyond our own personal agenda, hurts or opinions.  As Paul later stated, “Honor one another above yourselves.”

Another form of mercy is that when you step in to another’s affliction or pain to ease their suffering.  This can come in a variety of forms such as words of comfort, a hug to let them know you are standing with them or provide resources to ease their need.  By doing so, you may be the only “Jesus” they may have ever encountered.  Jesus was all about showing mercy to the marginalized of Israel, to those that mourned or suffered and even to his enemies.  That form of mercy can be the most difficult.  Paul said, “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse.”  In today’s world, we might respond to Paul’s words with, “Really?” There is one thing rather certain in this world, not everyone is going to treat us nicely.  We are going to receive ill treatment even when we think we are doing the right thing.  If Jesus, the perfect Son of God was persecuted, what is there to doubt that we will be persecuted as well?  Here is an additional thought, the more we try to live like Jesus, the more likely we will be persecuted.  So now that we have removed the “if we are persecuted” to “when we are persecuted,” we can now examine how Paul interpreted Jesus’ response.  Paul stated in verse 17, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Showing mercy by doing good will be the most unlikely response expected, just like when Paul quoted Jesus’ words, “If anyone is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.”

Here is a word of caution: if you become one who shows mercy, do not expect to win a popularity contest.  Well meaning people will call mercy givers, “weak, spineless bleeding hearts.”  Christians have to realize that by showing mercy they are sharing the love of Jesus with the world.  Fathers can practice mercy with their discipline of their children.  Women can practice mercy in response to gossip.  If Christians cannot show mercy to other Christians, why would non-believers want to join our ranks?  Again, when we pause to reflect on the mercy Jesus showed to us, is there any justifiable reason we should not do that as well?

Leading with mercy is like a father teaching his children about love when the father unconditionally loves his children’s mother.  Every church leader, pastor or laity will encounter situations that require mercy.  There will be situations of need that arise; there will be arguments and disagreements and there might even be persecution; but how we handle these situations will become the model for our families, our church and even our community.  The Kingdom of our Lord began at Resurrection but when the flame of joy flickered or was snuffed out, it was the mercy of Jesus that rekindled the flame.  Go and do likewise!