Love our City – Loving Mercy

The Bible paints a vivid picture of God’s boundless mercy as echoed in the following verses:

Ephesians 2:4-5 – “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved.”

Lamentations 3:22-23 – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

This is the profound power of God’s mercy and love – that we are forgiven and redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice. He is rich in a mercy that is unending and in Micah 6:8 He invites us to love and live out this mercy. In this verse we encounter the Hebrew term Hesed. Hesedis the embodiment of compassion in our actions – a love and loyalty that inspires merciful and compassionate behaviour towards others. The same word epitomizes God’s covenantal faithfulness to His people.

We read in Numbers 14:18-19 of Moses appealing to God’s hesed  (God’s great love) on behalf of the Israelites: “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.  In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”.

Within Shakespeare’s timeless classic, “The Merchant of Venice,” we encounter a profound discourse that displays the virtue of mercy. In the speech, Portia, disguised as a lawyer, begs Shylock to show mercy to Antonio:

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d.
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.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute to God Himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this:
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.”

While the speech is made in the context of a play that has depths to explore around the ideas of justice in society, looking at the contents of the speech it so beautifully captures the potency of mercy. By juxtaposing earthly power against divine power, it unveils mercy’s divine nature and its power to quell the due consequence of wrong.

Mercy, is not a timid, feeble Christian virtue; rather, it embodies courage. Oftentimes, our minds and emotions interject, casting doubt upon the worthiness of those who stand before us seeking mercy. We erect barriers, hindering the natural flow of compassion from our hearts to others, stifling our ability to act. The act of showing mercy therefore demands courage – the courage to embrace vulnerability, to risk exploitation, and to attend to the needs of another.

Thus in the Bible, mercy is clearly an attribute of God, and mercy is a classic cultural value of the highest order associated with the divine.

However, in today’s world, particularly within the realm of social justice, mercy often finds itself misconstrued and misplaced. Justice necessitates a just adjudicator. When humans, relying on subjective measures, dictate right from wrong, just from unjust, compassion becomes distorted. We are not the judge, rather God is, and we cannot outdo Him when it comes to mercy. In a society where the cry for justice often overshadows mercy, it takes courage to extend forgiveness, to break free from the chains of resentment, and to follow the path of compassion.

True mercy entails sacrifice. While inherent to God’s character, mercy is a mantle He calls us to bear. In embracing mercy, we do not usurp the role of judge or a need of justice; rather, we become extensions of Christ’s compassionate hand to those in need. Far from being a weakness, embracing mercy is a testament to strength, a willingness to rise above the fray and extend grace even when the world demands otherwise.

In conclusion, as we immerse ourselves in the richness of God’s mercy, we discover a profound love for mercy and a call to become ministers of mercy in our world.

By Tarryn JVV