Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7 ESV)
Balancing grace and truth are the hallmarks of mercy. It is the choice to be lenient instead of angry, compassionate instead of condemning. Where do we draw the boundary between discipline and enabling? Well, that is a personal judgment call depending on the context and severity of the offense.
Everyone has a different tolerance level. Some people are sensitive and others are not, and so everyone’s responses will vary according to how they feel and think. This is neither right or wrong, just a fact. However, if we appeal to God and ask him to help us understand our problems in the grand scheme of eternity, we may learn that the issues are very temporary and that responding with mercy frees us from the burden to judge, condemn, and punish.
Mercy isn’t limited to exercising leniency. It also involves tending to someone else’s needs. The Holy Spirit empowers us to see things through his eyes, and to feel what he feels. He inspires us to be others-centered, giving opportunity to pray and minister to those who need comfort and encouragement from Jesus. When we see the suffering of others and act with compassion, we are showing them the love and mercy of God. Perhaps, they will remember the acts of kindness and glorify him for sending supportive people when they least expect it.
I once heard a story about a homeless man who had a leg wound that wouldn’t heal. A passerby called for help and got him hospitalized. The man would not talk to the hospital staff for a long time, and after a few days, he started crying and opened up to one of the nurses. She asked what was wrong and with tears he explained, “I can count on one hand, how many times a person stopped to talk to me over the past few years. I can’t believe there are still people who want to know my name, and that you guys cared enough to put clean bandages on my wounds.”
That was mercy, God’s mercy. We need more of it for ourselves, and we need to also give it others: the unbearable, the suffering, and the underserved. This is the heart of Jesus, and he is pleased when we follow his example.