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Mercy is the generosity, tenderness of heart, and kindness of soul that is moved to alleviate the sufferings of others. It is one of the characteristics that mark the children of God, for God Himself is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4). The Scriptures are full of descriptions of the mercy of God, whose “mercies never come to an end” (Lam. 3:22). He revealed Himself to Moses as “the Lord, a God merciful and gracious” (Ex. 34:6). God’s grace is a kindness shown to those who are guilty and deserve punishment, and mercy is a kindness shown to such in their suffering. It is similar to pity, and those who are the “blessed” of God are marked by a heart of mercy toward those who are suffering and in need of relief and comfort.
Where does a merciful heart come from? By nature, our hearts are generally self-absorbed and hardened toward others. The needs of the suffering do not naturally move us as they should. Some who haven’t experienced God’s saving grace may indeed feel and express a type of mercy toward others, but there is a deep and abiding kind of mercy that is only known in the hearts of those who are the blessed of God.
Those whose lives are marked by a deep and abiding heart of mercy are made this way by experiencing the mercy of being born again. It is “according to his great mercy” that God “has caused us to be born again” (1 Peter 1:3). The saving mercy of God gives birth to a transformed people who in turn reflect this mercy to others. Mercy begets mercy in the hearts of God’s people, who in turn reflect God’s supernatural work in merciful deeds toward others.
Reflecting upon the mercies of God is the way that God’s children can cultivate and develop a heart of mercy. It is humbling for the children of God to reflect on the state of sin and misery into which we were naturally born as sinners. It is even more humbling to reflect upon the mercies of God that have been poured out upon us through Christ. We were in a pitiful state, and God took pity on us. Should we not do the same to others? “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
Those who lack the mercy of God in their hearts cannot expect to receive God’s mercy on the last day. This is the point of the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23–35. After refusing to show mercy to his fellow servant, the unmerciful servant was rebuked by his master: “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (v. 33). Experiencing God’s mercy demands that we show mercy in return. Those who are characteristically unmerciful demonstrate that they have not received the mercy that comes from Christ in the gospel.
Those who have hearts of mercy demonstrate that they have received God’s mercy. Once individuals experience the mercy of God, God’s mercy will remain on them forever, and they will show that God’s mercy is on them by being merciful to others. The promise of future mercy— “They shall receive mercy”—is a sure foundation for blessedness. What greater blessing could there be than to know that the mercy of God will rest on you forever?