We’ve all known someone with that special talent or quality that makes them stand out. Think NFL QB Tim Tebow, NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino or Scottish singer Susan Boyle. It’s referred to as the x factor: an indescribable quality or a noteworthy special talent that sets them apart.
No, I’m not referring to X-Factor as in the comic book series or the TV show. The character quality is what is on my mind these days.
What if mercy is the x-factor for a Christian?
I’m not talking about someone exclaiming, “Oh mercy!” as an expression of surprise or fear. I am referring to mercy as a verb … to express mercy, show leniency, clemency, forgiveness or forbearance to another.
Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm, as in “the boy was screaming and begging for mercy.” It can also be an act performed out of a desire to relieve suffering, as in a “mercy medical mission.” We can think of it as offering a pardon when guilt is known.
Understanding mercy and grace is difficult for people since we live in a worldly culture that promotes revenge. I hope they get what is coming to them, people say … they deserve it. Many have developed a harsh nature of criticism that want to see people punished and then some. God, however, is merciful to even the worst offenders, sinners, and law-breakers. This means that even though He knows of our guilt, He doesn’t always issue the punishment deserved. Romans 3:23-24 says “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
God of Mercy
God’s Word has many references to mercy, one of my favorite being Exodus 34:6.
He lavishes love upon us, when we deserve His wrath. So we see how mercy is defined, that it is available to all who ask and that God expects us to show it to others.
How do I show Mercy?
Micah 6:8 reads, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” These are words to all of mankind. Mercy is offered to you and I. He has shown us what is good and answers what is required of us. Micah asks God in Micah 7:18, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”
Since I am a practical person, I want to know what mercy looks like, rather than in theory. A dear friend suggested Mother Theresa (indeed), yet I cannot relate to her. I’m married, not joining a nunnery nor moving to India anytime soon. This isn’t mockery. I just need a relateable image closer to home.
No sooner had I thought this, than examples came to mind of people to whom I can extend kindness and compassion to. See, I’m still learning how to serve others with warmth, compassion and hospitality. It is EASY to say “I love you” to our Christian friends and part ways, when they don’t expect anything from you. But LOVE in ACTION means being the hands and feet of Christ to another.
In the past, I found it easy to go to the county jail and love female strangers who broke the law. Entending them mercy flowed freely. I can feed the homeless without any qualms. No emotional baggage there.
But God is requring me to extend mercy to a relative requiring unconditional love. It is harder than anything I have ever done. In the past, it was easy to love others who loved me. They deserved my affection and kindness. But this person does not deserve it, God, I argue. They have not earned this kind treatment. “You did not deserve my affection, either, Katie.” Oh yes, Lord, I remember, sighing. To walk humbly, we must remember that each of us has failed to live up to this standard in a thousand different ways. I’m learning to lean on His strength in my weakness.
So I conclude with: What if the Mercy Factor sets us apart in this world?
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace-loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:17 NLT