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Be merciful

I love watching animal documentaries. They are interesting and exciting.

One particular documentary that comes to mind is where a herd of deer are drinking water at a waterhole. Suddenly, a large crocodile leaps from the water and grabs a deer by its neck and pulls it in the water, and does the death roll. After a bit of thrashing, it’s all over. All the other deer run away in fright.

Sometimes, life is like that. Sometimes, you are the deer that got eaten, and other times, you are the deer that escaped.

Imagine the thought going through the mind of the deer that escaped… "Whew that was a really close one; it could have been me!"

Also imagine the thought going through the mind of the deer that got caught… "Oh no, why me? And why like this?"

Have you ever felt that more often than not that, like the deer that got eaten, it is you who get the short end of the stick? It is usually you that gets laid off. It is usually your car that breaks down. It is usually your kids who get in trouble. It is usually your stocks that go down.

Does it usually rain only when you are on vacation? Is the cop around only when you are speeding? You get the picture…

If that is the story of your life then maybe God is trying to tell you something, and maybe He is shouting it out loud so that you don’t miss hearing it. And maybe He is trying to tell you that you need to be merciful to others.

To be merciful is to give others a break when they mess up. It is to let them go instead of taking them to task and doling out the full amount of punishment due to them.

Ps 145:18 tells us that God is merciful. He usually overlooks our sin and our foolishness.

Ps 145:8 The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.

But that’s not all. It is not just that God is merciful. Eph 2:4 tells us that God is rich in mercy. That is, when we are in need of mercy, God has plenty to give us. He is never running short of mercy.

Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,

As long as God is merciful to us life is relatively calm and peaceful. But when God withholds mercy, all hell can break loose. That’s when you begin to mess up. That’s when your boss shouts at you in front of the entire team. That’s when the cop catches you for speeding.

When we see all hell breaking loose in our lives we must understand that God is trying to tell us that He is withholding mercy from us. We must pause and backtrack and find out what we said or did to incur such treatment and fix it quickly.

Why does God withhold mercy? It is only because we have been unmerciful to others.

You see, there is a condition that we must fulfill to receive God’s mercy. It is found in Mt 5:7 and Jas 2:13.

Mt 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Jas 2:13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment

The merciful man receives mercy. The merciless man doesn’t.

God expects you to show mercy to others just as He has shown mercy to you.

Mt 18:33 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?'

Fear God and take what He has said in the above verses seriously and you will see His mercy.


Consider Rom 9:15, 18.


Rom 9:18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

We see that God is able to show mercy to anyone He chooses. Make sure that He shows mercy to you. And do this by showing mercy to your fellowman.

The apostle James, comes across as a person who was once rather unmerciful. You can see that from the tone of his letter and the curtness and directness of his speech. But over time, He learnt something about the value of mercy, and this is what he writes in Jas 2:12-13.

Jas 2:12-13 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

The law of liberty refers to God having the liberty to choose who He can be merciful to.

You see, when you do something wrong, God has to decide what to do about it. Should He let you go, or should He give you a tight smack? That is, should He deal with you in mercy or in judgment?

The law of liberty gives God the freedom to judge whoever He wants and to not judge whoever He wants.

God has chosen to be merciful to (and not judge) those who are merciful – mercy triumphs over judgment.

On the other hand, God will judge (and show no mercy) to those who are merciless.

What you see here is an important aspect of the nature God, and understanding this is critical to your own happiness and peace. I’ve seen people who live a miserable life because they don’t have an understanding of this aspect of God’s nature.

James learnt that it is wise to speak and act remembering that God will withhold His mercy towards us if we are unmerciful to others, and bring about judgment instead.

It is true that God forgives us if we are in Christ, and we don’t end up in hell because our sins are forgiven. But there is still the matter of earthly consequences. For example, consider David…

After David committed adultery with Bathsheba he tried to cover it up, and ended up deviously killing her husband. When the prophet Nathan exposed his sin, David repented and his sin was forgiven. But he still had to face the consequences.

2 Sam 12:9-15 9 'Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. 10 'Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' 11 "Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 'Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.'" 13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. 14 "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die." 15 So Nathan went to his house.

Where was God’s mercy towards David in this situation?

Well, you see, there were three men in David’s army – Joab, Abishai and Asahel, the sons of Zeruiah. One day, during war, Abner (the general they were fighting against) killed Asahel in a fair fight, after warning Asahel to back off.

Joab never forgot that, and when he had an opportunity, he killed Abner in revenge, and not in a fair fight (2 Sam 3:27-29).

2 Sam 3:27-29 27 So when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the middle of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the belly so that he died on account of the blood of Asahel his brother. 28 Afterward when David heard it, he said, "I and my kingdom are innocent before the LORD forever of the blood of Abner the son of Ner. 29 "May it fall on the head of Joab and on all his father's house; and may there not fail from the house of Joab one who has a discharge, or who is a leper, or who takes hold of a distaff, or who falls by the sword, or who lacks bread."

David was aghast, and as we see above, showed no mercy to Joab, cursing Joab’s descendants.

And then, what do you see a few chapters later? David himself commits murder! And God, while forgiving him, shows David no mercy either. If God showed David mercy in that situation then the enemies of God would blaspheme by accusing God of the evil of partiality. David’s lack of mercy towards Joab tied God’s hands.

In the same way, your lack of mercy towards will tie God’s hands and force Him to deal mercilessly with you!

So then, what is the path of wisdom? It is a life that is full of mercy.

Jas 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

So let your life be full of mercy. Don’t make fun of others when their shortcomings are exposed, and your fellow students are laughing at them. Don’t berate your spouse when he or she doesn’t live to your high standard. Don’t ride roughshod over your children for their foibles. Don’t look down on your brother or sister when you see their lack.

Did someone say something evil about you, or slight you in public? Let it go. Let God take care of it. Your job is to show mercy.

And then, when you stand before God, with all your life bare, in the day that you mess up, watch how God deals with you. Watch the cop still give the ticket to someone else. Watch the …you get the idea.

I hope that you don’t have to learn this lesson the hard way. Rather, may the face of God shine upon you, and may everything that you touch become a success – for such is the lot of a merciful man.

Now let turn this around… so far, I’ve tried to point out that you should be merciful so that you receive mercy from God. That is step one. There is a step two…

Step two is to be merciful because your Father in heaven is merciful, and you want to be just like Him.

Step one is a great step. But step two is even better – far better. In your quest for excellence, aim for step two.

Copyright (c) 2007-2026, Rosario (Ross) D'Souza. All Rights Reserved
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