Mercy for the Merciful
MERCY is for the merciful. It is granted according to right principles and for a definite purpose. That purpose is to develop integrity in men and to prove that integrity to be unbreakable. Mercy is for those who try to prove their love of God by keeping his commandments. The unmerciful, ungrateful, wicked man, the man that invents and practices evil, does not receive of God’s mercy. The wise man asks: “Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.”—Prov. 14:22.
Jehovah is the “Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.” (2 Cor. 1:3, NW) He expresses his absolute right to bestow his mercy upon whomsoever he wills. To Moses he said: “I will have mercy upon whomever I do have mercy, and I will show compassion to whomever I do show compassion.” (Rom. 9:15, NW) It is this quality of mercy that differentiates him from all demon gods of the pagans.
Jehovah’s mercy makes him adorable to us. It makes us want to cling to him and to love him. Because of his mercy we feel free to approach him in our weakness and imperfectness with an assurance of being heard and understood. The way Jehovah expresses his mercy proves to us that he is love. (1 John 4:16) His mercy is no sign of weakness or sentimental softness; rather it is an outflow of love to his creatures. It is written of him: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning iniquity and transgression and sin.”—Ex. 34:6, 7, NW; Mic. 7:18.
Jehovah’s mercy is specially for those who seek mercy from him. “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” (Ps. 86:5) “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.” (Ps. 103:11) “And for generations after generations his mercy is upon those who fear him.” (Luke 1:50, NW) His mercy is also for those who trust in him (Ps. 32:10); who love him for what he is (Neh. 1:5); who sow to themselves righteousness (Hos. 10:12); who are led by his spirit (Gal. 6:16); and who themselves are forgiving (Mark 11:25). God’s mercy is an incentive to righteousness, a spur to an honest endeavor to live above the law of sin.—Rom. 7:21-25, NW.
No one is beyond the reach of Jehovah’s mercy, if such one desires it. His mercy can lift us up and help us attain eternal life. But we must be honest with ourselves. We are at a disadvantage because of our imperfection. We must believe that only by the mercy of God shall we ever gain life. To receive of Jehovah’s mercy we must be merciful to others. To deny mercy brings denial of it for oneself. “Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: . . . Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man.” (Ps. 109:12, 16) And when showing mercy to others it is to be done “with cheerfulness” and with “good fruits.” (Rom. 12:8; Jas. 3:17) Imitate “the Father of tender mercies” when expressing mercy to others. “Jehovah is gracious, and merciful; slow to anger, and of great loving-kindness. Jehovah is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works.”—Ps. 145:8, 9, AS.
DELIGHT IN MERCY
A truly gracious heart will be merciful. It manifests itself in doing good. The merciful know their brothers are imperfect even as they are. They know their brothers make mistakes even as they do; that all are “brought forth in iniquity” and conceived in sin; that “there is not a righteous man, not even one.” (Ps. 51:5, AS; Rom. 3:10, NW) The merciful know that God remembers these in his mercy. “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” (Ps. 103:14) Should we not be as forgiving to one another? “With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful.” (2 Sam. 22:26) “Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.” (Matt. 5:7, NW) To Christians Peter says: “Supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion, to your godly devotion brotherly affection, to your brotherly affection love.” (2 Pet. 1:5-7, NW) How can we do this if we do not show love and mercy toward one another?
None of us are perfect. Each has his own peculiar weakness and imperfection, quirks and disposition. Because of these differences mercy must be exercised by each and every one of us. In our own eyes we may appear right, good, and without fault. But to others our shortcomings are many and obvious. We have hidden or secret faults. So, if we have been offended or wronged by some brother, let us not make the mistake of brooding over it, and make matters still worse by advertising our brother’s weakness, by gossiping about it. Do not be immature, childlike, by nursing a grudge. Rather, follow the Scriptural rule of going to the offender at some opportune moment, when you are in a right frame of mind, and then kindly, calmly and tactfully bring the matter to his attention. Do not condemn him. Jehovah may be holding him guiltless. “Stop judging, that you may not be judged; for with what judgment you are judging, you will be judged.” (Matt. 7:1, 2, NW) Do not make the serious mistake of rebuking him before others. You not only embarrass him but you do an injury to yourself as well by not following the Scriptural rule laid down at Matthew 18:15-17. Privately and in good, cheerful atmosphere air your differences. You will not only keep friends but win friends this way.
We want Jehovah to forgive our “secret faults,” do we not? Let us, then, be very merciful, overlooking and forgiving one another’s shortcomings. “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” (Ps. 19:12, 13) We can count on Jehovah’s forgiving our secret faults, if we forgive one another’s.
Paul gives us another reason for being merciful toward our brothers. “Brothers,” said Paul, “even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to restore such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1, NW) We never know when we may find ourselves in a position begging for mercy. The safe course is to be always forgiving. Forgive your brother “seventy-seven times” if necessary.—Matt. 18:22, NW.
THESE OUGHT TO KNOW BETTER
Some professed Christians are oh so kind and forgiving toward persons outside the Christian congregation who commit some trespass. But let their Christian brother become guilty of the same misdeed against them, and, instead of showing the same mercy, these become cold as ice and as hard as stone. To justify their hardheartedness, they will often say these ought to know better, whereas we have to make allowances for people outside because they do not know any better. So they show no love to their brother. Jesus classed these unforgiving ones with the scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites, saying, You “have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, judgment and mercy and faithfulness.” (Matt. 23:23, NW) Instead of saying he should have known better, perhaps it would be better to say, He is still weak and imperfect in the flesh, as we all are. Paul shows that could be quite possible.—Rom. 7:15-25.
If we show a hardhearted attitude we bar out God from showing us mercy. “With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright.” (Ps. 18:25) Do we have grounds for refusing mercy to fellow brothers because, in our view, these should have known better? Let us apply the same rule to ourselves and reason that God will henceforth not forgive us or be patient with us because we, too, should know better, now that we have come into the truth.
There is an opposite side to this too. If we withhold mercy it will be withheld from us. To add mercy to others is to have it added to us. To multiply mercy toward others means that it will be multiplied in an even greater abundance to us. “With the measure that you are measuring out they will measure out to you.” (Matt. 7:2, NW) To withhold mercy is to be cruel.
Wicked men are without mercy. “But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Prov. 12:10) In the illustration of the unforgiving slave, the one who withheld mercy from his fellow slave had it withheld from himself in turn. The unmerciful slave the master called wicked. “Wicked slave, I canceled all that debt for you, when you entreated me. Ought you not, in turn, to have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I also had mercy on you?” Jesus added: “In like manner my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.” (Matt. 18:32-35, NW) “For the one that does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy.”—Jas. 2:13, NW.
EXAMPLES IN MERCY
Mature Christians are admonished to be examples in mercy. Paul said the reason why he received mercy was so that he might be a “sample of those who are going to rest their faith on him [Christ Jesus] for everlasting life.” (1 Tim. 1:16, NW) Jude urges the mature ones to “continue showing mercy to some that have doubts; save them by snatching them out of the fire. But continue showing mercy to others, doing so with fear.”—Jude 22, 23, NW.
The rewards for being merciful are many. The merciful need never fear Jehovah’s judgment. He is assured of merciful consideration. Mercy makes for peace of mind of the one whom we forgive. It relieves him of the burden of worry and needless regrets. It creates harmony within the Christian congregation. It blesses the giver, the one showing mercy, for is it not more blessed to give than to receive? Yes, when we express mercy we share the comfort and joy that results from it. On the other hand, if we withhold mercy we trouble our own flesh. “The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”—Prov. 11:17.
So take to heart the wise man’s advice: “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: so shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.”—Prov. 3:3, 4.