What comes to your mind when you think of the idea of mercy? A judge? A teacher? A parent? A humanitarian or philanthropist? Webster’s dictionary says that mercy is “the kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly. It is kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation.” Almost every religion holds it up as an attribute that is not only desirable but characteristic of people who want to please their deity. When it is within the power or right of someone to punish another, to give them what they deserve according to the law or their own standards, or to even to harm someone else, the response can only be a call for mercy and compassion, for leniency or even forgiveness.
When we read in Ephesians that God is RICH IN MERCY, it should not be a surprise to us. Even the Old Testament heroes, like Abraham, Moses and David saw God as totally merciful. The prophets told the Israelites that a Savior would come some day to rescue them from their pain and suffering solely because of His compassion. John the Baptist proclaimed that in God’s mercy, He had sent His son to be “the lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.” (John 1: 29) God’s willingness to “forgive and to make us alive in Christ” gives us a whole new dimension to the concept of mercy, doesn’t it? It’s what we call justification.
We don’t deserve it. We can’t earn it. But “through faith we are justified and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 4: 1I) That’s what extravagant mercy is! Thank you, God, that in Your grace “You give us what we do not deserve” and in Your mercy “You do not give us what we really and truly do deserve.” Thank You that Your mercy extends to all generations, to all people, and to every one, everywhere.