Tag Archives: mercy

Bible Term: Mercy

Mercy is not getting the bad things we deserve.

Not being punished for doing wrong is an act of mercy. Sometimes criminals ask a judge for mercy; occasionally them receive it. When the police officer gives you a warning, instead of a speeding ticket, it’s an act of mercy.

For all those who follow Jesus, his mercy means we won’t be held accountable for all we’ve done wrong.

Compare and contrast mercy to grace.

How Many Times Should You Forgive Someone?

Jesus shared a story (parable) about forgiving others.

Jesus’ illustration was prompted by Peter, who asked if forgiving someone seven times was enough; Peter thought seven times was generous. Jesus upped the figure considerably, saying seventy-seven times. But we don’t take this amount literally, instead understanding that Jesus really meant we need to forgive others “more times than we can count” or “without limit.”

Jesus’ story, however, takes the idea of forgiveness to another level. A man, who owed a huge debt he could never repay, begged for mercy, for more time to make payment. But instead of receiving additional time, the debt was forgiven.

But then the man threatened someone who owed him a tiny bit of money. No mercy was given; no forgiveness was offered. He withheld from others what had been given to him.

Because of the man’s selfishness and not treating others as he was treated, his debt was reinstated and he was thrown into prison and tortured. Our fate will be no different if we don’t forgive others.

We, who have been forgiven much by God, need to likewise forgive others. The risk of withholding forgiveness is too great.

[Matthew 18:21-35]

Beware the Adulteress

The book of Proverbs contains the majority of the Bible’s mentions of the word “adulteress” (seven times in Proverbs compared to five times in the rest of the Bible). An “adulteress” is “a woman who commits adultery,” that is, she has sex with someone other than her husband. In today’s language, that is referred to as “cheating.”

Solomon warns his son — and all men — to stay away from the adulteress.

The Law of Moses notes that both the adulterer (the male participant) and the adulteress (the female participant) should be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). That is how serious God views the breaking of marriage vows.

Although the majority of modern society takes a much more casual perspective on lifelong monogamy, God’s staunch opposition to adultery hasn’t changed. Fortunately, his response has. In the Old Testament (as mentioned above), the prescribed response to adultery is judgment. However, in the New Testament, Jesus — God’s son — demonstrates a kinder, gentler response: mercy (John 8:1-11).

However, remember that even though Jesus will give both the adulterer and adulteress mercy and forgiveness, the offended spouse may not likely be so understanding.

[Mentions of adulteress in the Bible.]

So, What Does God Think of Prostitutes?

While I can’t definitively answer this question about prostitutes, the Bible does give a clear indication — and the answer may surprise you.

Through the prophet Hosea, God says: “I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution…because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes — a people without understanding will come to ruin!”

In economic terms, there needs to be both supply and demand for a “market” to exist.  This applies to prostitution.  Although both society and law enforcement tend to focus on the “supply” side of the prostitution equation, God’s focus seems to be on the “demand” side.

In God’s book, it’s the guys who are at fault and the guys who will come to ruin over prostitution.  While sexual purity is a reoccurring theme in the Bible, in this case the ladies are offered mercy, but not so much for the guys.

Isn’t God wonderfully surprising?

[Hosea 4:14]

How to Treat One Another

Consider how the Bible teaches us to treat one another:

Love one another [John 13:34, John 13:35, Romans 13:8, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 4:11, 1 John 4:12, 2 John 1:5]

Accept one another [Romans 15:7]

Instruct one another [Romans 15:14]

Submit to one another [Ephesians 5:21]

Forgive one another [Colossians 3:13]

Teach one another [Jeremiah 9:20]

Teach and admonish one another [Colossians 3:16]

Encourage one another [Judges 20:22, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25]

Agree with one another [1 Corinthians 1:10]

Fellowship with one another [1 John 1:7]

Give to one another [Esther 9:22]

Live in harmony with one another [Romans 12:16, 1 Peter 3:8]

Be kind and compassionate to one another [Ephesians 4:32]

Serve one another in love [Galatians 5:13]

Bear with one another in love [Ephesians 4:2]

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love [Romans 12:10a]

Honor one another above yourselves [Romans 12:10b]

Greet one another with a kiss of love [1 Peter 5:14]

Greet one another with a holy kiss [Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12]

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs [Ephesians 5:19]

Spur one another on toward love and good deeds [Hebrews 10:24]

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling [1 Peter 4:9]

Administer justice, show mercy and compassion to one another [Zechariah 7:9]

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another [1 Peter 5:5]

Do not deceive one another [Leviticus 19:11]

Do not break faith with one another [Malachi 2:10]

Do not degrade your bodies with one another [Romans 1:24]

Do not lust for one another [Romans 1:27]

Stop judging one another [Romans 14:13]

Do not hate one another [Titus 3:3]

Do not slander one another [James 4:11]

Micah’s Personal Prescription

As the prophet Micah gives a series of stinging rebukes against the nations of Israel and Judah, he takes pause for some personal reflection.

As if keeping a journal, he wonders how he should approach God.  With reverence, with offerings, with sacrifices?  No.  That is not what God wants.  God requires something much different, for him to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.

Then Micah returns to his God-promoted discourse of doom.  After a bit more invective, he becomes filled with remorse, saying, “What misery is mine?”

Micah then reflects some more, delving into a depressing bit of introspection, before confidently affirming that his hope is in God; Micah will wait and God will hear him.

So Micah’s personal prescription then becomes to:

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly, and hope in and wait on God.

Works for me.

[Micah 6:6-8, Micah 7:1, Micah 7:7]

God’s Sovereignty At Work

In the story of Jonah, we see God’s sovereignty at work, with God exercising control over nature.  Here’s what God does:

  • He sends a wind [Jonah 1:4]
  • He calms the sea [Jonah 1:15]
  • He provides a fish to shallow Jonah [Jonah 1:17]
  • He commands the fish to deposit Jonah on dry land [Jonah 2:10]
  • He makes a vine grow to give shade to Jonah [Jonah 4:6]
  • He causes a worm to chew the vine and kill it [Jonah 4:7]

Furthermore, God’s sovereignty allows him to show mercy towards the people of Nineveh and not destroy them as he had originally planned.

However, God does not exercise control over Jonah, allowing him to do what he wants, when he chooses,and how pleases.  Jonah has free will — and God does not interfere with that even though Jonah’s choices cause him a lot of grief.

God gives Jonah the freedom to mess up — or to do what is right.  That’s how God rolls.

God’s Sovereignty Allows Him to be Benevolent

God is sovereign; it is one of his characteristics.  To be sovereign means to have supreme rank, power, and authority.

The word sovereign appears hundreds of times in the Bible (mostly in the Old Testament) and is usually used as a title for God or in addressing him, as in “Sovereign Lord.”

Many people object to the idea that God is sovereign; it offends them or causes fear.  That may be because of a tendency to see sovereignty from a human perspective.  They assume that God’s sovereignty allows him to be malevolent; that is, he is just waiting for us to mess up and then he will do us harm — or give us grief just because he can.  But that is not his nature.

God is good and just.  His sovereignty actually allows him to be benevolent.  He wants to do good to us, to offer us good things we don’t deserve (grace) and to withhold punishment that we do deserve (mercy).

God’s sovereignty allows for benevolence; his love prohibits malevolence.

Fasting for the Right Reasons

Although many people ignore its practice, fasting is demonstrated in the Bible and is an encouraged practice.  (See the blog entry, “When You Fast…“.)

However, fasting rightly requires fasting for the right reasons.  Here are some of them:

Wrong reasons for fasting includes to earn God’s attention or favor, out of a sense of duty and obligation, or to gain the respect of others.

Lessons from the Life of John Mark

There is an interesting story that begins in Acts 13.

God tells the church to commission and send out Barnabas and Paul to other cities, telling the people they meet about Jesus.  They do this, taking with them John (also called, John Mark or just Mark).

The thing is, God didn’t tell them to take John Mark; he apparently doesn’t belong there.  This is borne out later, when John Mark deserts Barnabas and Paul to return home.

Later, Barnabas wants to give John Mark a second chance (an example of mercy), but Paul says “no” (an example of justice).  They part company over this disagreement, each going their separate ways.  This might seem like a bad thing, but it turns out to be a good thing, as they are then able to cover twice the ground, doubling their effectiveness and outreach.

For John Mark, his story ends on a positive note, too, with him and Paul later being reconciled (an example of grace) and Paul esteeming John Mark as his fellow worker and as being useful to him.

This is a great lesson in life.  Despite making mistakes along the way, we can still finish well.  John Mark did and so can we.

[Acts 13:2-3, 5, 13; Acts 15:36-41; Colossians 4:10, Philemon 1:24, and 2 Timothy 4:11]