Mercy. What emotions does that word trigger for you? A feeling of comfort? A sense of guilt? Joy? Numbness? Pity for millions of people starving overseas? Desire to show more mercy for people who need it?
What does it look like to enjoy the mercy of God? Do you feel gratitude for what you don’t deserve? Do you understand intellectually what it is but can’t say you appreciate it at a heart level? Is mercy a cheap excuse to take God for granted and live as you like? If we are not enjoying mercy, then maybe we are blocking it.
Jesus once told a story about two men who entered the temple to pray. The religious leader thanked God for what a good law abiding citizen he was. He didn’t live a corrupt and dishonest life like the tax collector he saw across the room. The tax collector, on the other hand, was looking down, beating his chest in deep sorrow as he prayed, O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.
Jesus went on to declare that mercy is for people who humble themselves and not for those who have a proud heart. It is for those who admit they are sinners and know there is no hope that they can help themselves. It is for those who confess their powerlessness and guilt and long for transformation. They know how easy it is to live selfishly; to put themselves forward while putting others down.
If we are Christ followers, then we have experienced his mercy. When we openly and honestly confessed our sins, Jesus responded by forgiving us and granting us new life and power to live for him. There was no doubt in our minds that we did not deserve mercy. Yet we still came to God as we were—in our weakness and sins and received his mercy and grace.
What are some ways we may still be blocking God’s mercy at some level? Our culture says that we can do anything we want to do as long as we set our minds on it and work hard. That is the opposite of the posture that’s necessary to receive God’s mercy. It is by admitting our spiritual weakness and inability that we are made strong by his power at work within us.
Another blockage is failing to keep coming to God for his mercy. I have found that I need to continue praying as the tax collector, Lord Jesus, be merciful to me, a sinner. I need to pray this way every time I wander off the Jesus way. It may be a selfish act, a sinful thought, words that hurt or put myself forward. The way back is the way of confession. Jesus, I need your mercy again. Forgive me for my sin. He always does. Immediately. And I find myself back in full fellowship with my Lord.
We also block God’s mercy when we try and earn God’s love. We think that we need to change ourselves. We need to present a better version of ourselves to God so he will be inclined to accept us or love us more. We make efforts to eliminate bad habits, pray more diligently, be more kind to people. We have this false idea that we somehow need to impress God.
All good actions, for us as Christ followers, flow out of a life that has already received and experienced his mercy and grace. We are motivated by Jesus’ amazing love for us at the cross! Sharing his love with family and friends and strangers comes out of a heart transformed by God’s mercy and love. Receiving his mercy on a daily basis enables us to pass on that undeserved mercy. And that gives us inner joy and peace, knowing we are humbly doing what most matters to God—expressing the heart of Jesus to whoever comes across our path. –Floyd Grunau