Our kids loved to wrestle with each other when they were little. If things got out of hand, the one who felt overpowered could cry out, “Mercy!” This was their signal of surrender. All tickling and roughhousing (at least in theory) was supposed to cease.
Mercy calls out to the stronger to acknowledge the weaker one and show compassion. Mercy is woven throughout the Bible. It’s is at the heart of God’s motivation for our salvation.
Yet mercy is sometimes treated as a lesser virtue. Mistaken for mere sentimentality or emotionalism, mercy is seen by some as weak. James wants us to put mercy in its rightful place. Mercy is worthy of our deepest respect, he argues. It’s the social code by which believers are called to live.
James exhorts followers of Jesus to a life of words and deeds governed by mercy:
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.James 2:12,13.
The Key Word Study Bible contains a thorough description of mercy:
“Mercy,or eleos in the Greek, describes the compassion in which one undertakes to alleviate another’s misery and relieve their suffering. Mercy is any act which attempts to address the plight and wretchedness of others. Jesus used the story of the Good Samaritan to demonstrate eleos: (Luke 10:37). Love and Loyalty for Yahweh were measured in the manner of one’s dealing with others. To be hard-hearted, letter-of-the-law insistent, and unmoved by any extenuating circumstances violated the spirit of the law
God treats me with mercy. So naturally, it should characterize the way I treat others. Pure and simple. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
Lord, slow me down today. Show me what causes my heart to be hard at times. Resistant to giving or receiving mercy. Could it be that I am simply moving too fast to notice the one in need of Your mercy? I pray for a new vision of mercy as the true heart of Jesus. Make me especially alert to watch for opportunities today to show eleos to one of Your children.