Lately this has been on my mind rather a lot as I seek to show mercy as Christ shows mercy to me in so many ways. I had someone ask how I dealt with someone who is rather quirky and high maintenance and when I smiled and said, "We just try to show her mercy," the response was a confused look and silence. Frankly I'm surprised any dictionary definition is not marked "archaic," since the word seems out of date in the context of our current culture.
In the Bible we see many instances where we ask for God's mercy and thank God for His mercy towards us. And that is certainly compatible with the OED definition.
But it is also true that we have the capacity to hurt people every day -- either overtly by dealing dishonestly with them or causing physical harm, but also important though less often considered -- by failing to offer compassion or forgiveness?
So how do we show mercy? As a friend of mine said, "Can we cut him a little slack?" as in not demand perfection or even mounds of compatibility? Can we follow James* advice to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry? Can we offer kindness to folks who do not look like us, sound like us, dress like us, smell like us? Can we offer a kind word and a silent prayer for the mother (or grandmother) getting milk and bread with an impish child in tow? Can we be patient about waiting or holding doors for folks who are slower than we would like?
In the parable of the Unforgiving Debtor, Mathew 18:33 records Christ's observation: "Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?"
As we go about our day, let us be mindful of how often we are quick to judge people and situations about which we have far more opinion than facts. Let us offer prayer instead of judgement; aid instead of excuses; and kindness instead of disdain. We may find those people are far more like us than we imagine....and we always appreciate it when folks cut us a little slack when we are not at our best.
O, Lord, have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us. And open our eyes to opportunities to show mercy as You have so abundantly shown mercy to us. AMEN