“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy." Matthew 5:7
The story goes that a mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice, and justice demanded death.
"But I don't ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy."
"But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied.
"Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for."
"Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman's son.
Like the son in this story, who of us deserves mercy? We are worthy only by God's grace. Despite our sinful nature, Christ grants us mercy freely in His infinite love. Charles Wesley captures this experience of grace in the hymn “Depth of Mercy.”
(1) Depth of mercy!
Can there be mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God his wrath forbear,
me the chiefs of sinners spare?
(2) I have long withstood his grace,
long provoked him to his face,
would not hearken to his calls,
grieved him by a thousand falls.
(4) There for me the Savior stands,
shows his wounds and spreads his hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.
As followers of Jesus, he asks that we also extend mercy. How does that mercy look? It is in offering forgiveness to those who've wronged us, food to those who are hungry, pleading justice for those who can't speak for themselves, and sharing Christ's good news of salvation and redemption to those who are lost and seeking.
Merciful and loving God, we give you thanks for your compassion. Although we are sinners, you sent your Son to die for us. We have done nothing, nor can we do anything, to earn such mercy, but you provide it simply because you love us. Please help us extend that same compassion and understanding shown to others. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen
Story by Luis Palau, Experiencing God's Forgiveness, Multnomah Press, 1984.
The United Methodist Hymnal, #355