Lord, Have Mercy. (say it with a southern twang.) Philippians 4.4-5
Now that my daughter, Amy, lives in the South, I am learning to speak southern. On my first trip last fall to Wake Forest, North Carolina, I bought a dish towel with a bunch of the expressions not commonly used in my kind of south - Southern California.
The saying that intrigues me the most is "Lord, have mercy!" In my kind of south - coastal surf town, San Clemente, tattoos are very common; I'm thinking about having 'Have Mercy!" tattooed on the inside of my forearm, so that I can keep these two words in mind all the time. Mercy is greatly underrated, I'm afraid.
'Rejoice in the Lord always...' a kinda strange instruction Paul just gave, and then he follows that up with, 'Let your gracious gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is near.' [meaning the Lord is coming soon!]1 The Greek word, translated here as 'gracious gentleness' is epieikeia and is very difficult to translate into English, but in essence, we would understand it to mean mercy.
The common dictionary definition of mercy is 'compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.' More often than not, the term mercy is used interchangeably with compassion, but it is more than that; when it would seem like one might expect judgment, the judge decides to pardon or give him mercy. I have recently seen it in my own family that one says 'well he is only in this place because he has made such bad decisions' . . . or 'if he had not been in rebellion against the Lord, he would not be here.' So in this case, a gesture of mercy is withheld because bad judgment had been exercised, a 'hand up' is not extended because another had been foolish. To which I respond, 'O God, have mercy!'
If God gave me what I deserved, I would be in trouble. If the only true Judge meted out treatment according to my decisions, I would be on the outside looking in. Indeed I want to be shown mercy, don't you? Well then perhaps we must trade in mercy as well. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy,"2 Jesus said. (Seems to be a correlation - if we wish to receive mercy, so too we must exercise mercy) Indeed, look at what our Lord's brother wrote, "...judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!"3
Mercy is something not of this world really. It comes from the best part of us, yet from someplace outside of us that is far higher and purer. Reminds me of these words, 'The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes . . .'4
Humility is the companion of mercy, as it enables us to see our own need for mercy from others, from God, whereas the proud neither see their need of it, much less the value of dispensing it. While I often think of myself too much and also think too much of myself, one thing I know - I would be lost without God's mercy. Therefore I want to be a woman who gives mercy freely.
Could we start a campaign of mercy, you and me?
This is my thought . . . I want to be a person who dispenses mercy in the form of compassion,
praying that my heart will be broken with the things that break the heart of God... giving the benefit of the doubt, withholding judgment,
having a willingness to get my hands dirty to help someone else, being empathetic even without knowing all of the details, showing kindness in spades because that is mercy.
Join me in praying that God will use us to "have mercy"?
Dear Father, transform my heart to be a person who gives mercy by being compassionate. As I look around in life, break my heart with what breaks yours. Remind me to give the benefit of the doubt to others, refraining from judgment. Move me to be willing to get my hands dirty to help someone else, to be empathetic, and to show kindness wherever you take me-looking long in folks' eyes who need a little love. Lord, thank you for having mercy on me, may I be a mercy giver in turn! Amen.
1 -Philippians 4.5
2 - Matthew 5.7
3 - James 2.13
4 - The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, William Shakespeare