Mercy. Merciful. Those words bring a touch of warmth into the cold harshness of life—like the fragrance of baked apples and cinnamon wafting from the kitchen to the fireplace on a cold winter’s day.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild;
God and sinners reconciled. – Charles Wesley
Phillips Brooks wrote of an Everlasting Light shining in the dark streets of Bethlehem, and the result was mercy: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” When Placide Chapeau de Roquemaure was asked by the parish priest to write a Christmas poem, these words gushed from his heart:
O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
’Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
William Barclay says that the Greek word for mercy and its Hebrew counterparts mean much more than “feel[ing] sorry for someone in trouble… Mercy means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.” He echoes the writer of Hebrews: This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (4:15-16)
Hardly anything demonstrates mercy more than the celebration of the Incarnation at Christmas. That’s why I play Christmas music all year. I need to be reminded that God understands me and my weaknesses—and He is ready to come to my rescue. That’s mercy. When I fall, and promise that I will not do that again, and then do it again, I don’t get under His skin, because He has already got into my skin! That’s mercy. “He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies… He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve… For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (Psalm 103:4, 10, 14). That’s mercy.
Jesus reminds us that a stewardship comes with that gift of mercy: “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7). Receiving the gift means sharing the gift. So, how do I share the gift of mercy—with my family, with my schoolmates, with my co-workers?
- Remember that God got right into your skin through Jesus—not because He had to, but because He loved you.
- Remember that mercy and patience grows out of understanding. Before you fly off the handle, “get into his skin” and see things with his eyes, think things with her mind, feel things with his feelings. That will help raise your mercy quotient.
- Remember that giving mercy is healthy because you will be shown mercy. Mercy begets mercy—in our all our relationships. And we all need a good dose of mercy. Give freely and receive.
Try getting into their skin instead of getting under their skin. They will like it and you will too!