No matter where or how you serve God in ministry, he wants you to be an agent of mercy in the world. And the world is starved for mercy. Jesus said in Matthew 5, verse 7, “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” In other words, what you give out, you’re going to get back.
What is mercy? Usually we think of two things. We usually think of forgiving people who don’t deserve it. Or we think of helping people who can’t help themselves. Those are two definitions of mercy that we typically think of.
But mercy – which, by the way, is a part of God’s character – is so much more. There are at least seven facets of mercy. These are seven ways that you can transform your relationships and develop a ministry of mercy.
1. Be patient with people’s quirks.
Be patient with people’s quirks. Their idiosyncrasies. Their peculiarities. Their mannerisms. Their odd behavior. Their irritating habits. You show mercy when you don’t get irritated, angry, or uptight with people’s personal quirks. And we’ve all got them.
Ephesians 4:2 gives us some of the best marriage and relationship advice we’ll ever receive. It says, “Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Two imperfect people cannot make a perfect marriage. You have faults, your spouse has faults and a great marriage is the union of two great forgivers.
The first place you need to learn to show mercy is at home. Why? Because you see each other’s faults far more than anybody else does. You’re up close and personal with those faults and you’ve got to live with them the rest of your life.
2. Help anyone hurting around me.
There are hurting people all around you but too often we’re too busy to notice it. If you care, you’ll be aware.
Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan to teach this very point about helping the hurting around us is the meaning of mercy. A man is going down the road to Jericho and he’s robbed left for dead at the side of the road. Three guys pass by him and two of them do nothing. The third guy of another ethnicity and culture, stops and helps him, nurses him back to health, puts him on his donkey, takes him to a motel, checks in and pays the bill for the guy and agrees to come back and pay any other expenses incurred during the man’s stay.
Jesus pointed out that our neighbor is the one who is hurting, regardless of how different they may be than us. You cannot love your neighbor as yourself without being merciful.
3. Give people a second chance.
The Bible says in Ephesians, chapter 4, “Don’t get bitter or angry or use harsh words that hurt each other. Don’t yell at one another or curse or ever be rude. Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.”
Notice in that verse the Bible contrasts mercy with six negative responses. If you want to be merciful, 1.) don’t get bitter, 2.) don’t get angry, 3.) don’t use harsh words, 4.) don’t yell, 5.) don’t curse, and 6.) don’t be rude.
The world’s response is often characterized by bitterness and harsh words. Just look at Facebook during a media controversy and you’ll see how merciless people typically are in the way they speak to each other.
We want Saddleback to be known, not for our size or great programs or great music – we want to be known as a church of mercy.
4. Do good to those who hurt you.
Mercy is giving people what they need, not what they deserve. That’s what God does with you… God gives you what you need not what you deserve. Hurt people hurt people. The people who you want to love the least are those who need it the most. The most hurtful people are those who need massive doses of love and mercy.
5. Be kind to those who offend you.
You have probably noticed that the verbal attacks on Christians are going up in our society. This is because we represent a barrier – we hold on to what God’s truth is. How should we respond? In kind? No, we are to be kind to those who are offensive.
One of the big problems we face today as church leaders is what people refer to as a culture war. But wars always come with tragic costs. We must decide whether we want to win the argument or win people to Christ. You don’t get across your point by being cross. You’ve got to be more interested in winning them to Christ than in winning an argument.
6. Build bridges of love to the unpopular.
There are people in your circle, people who live on your street that nobody wants to hang out with. People who you work with that everybody tells the joke behind their back. They may have those quirks. Or they may have a different lifestyle. Or they may have a different belief system or they may have a different religion or they may dress differently because of their culture. But they’re not in the in crowd. They’re not popular. They’re the outcasts.
Building a bridge of love to the unpopular is what I call premeditated mercy.
Why does God want us to build bridges of love to the unpopular and specifically to unbelievers? Because you cannot win your enemies to Christ. You can only win your friends.
If you begin to live a life of mercy you will be criticized. But Jesus wasn’t afraid of guilt by association for two reasons. He knew exactly who he was. And he knew his mission: to seek and to save that which is lost.
7. Value relationships over rules.
I want to dare you to do something very risky. I want to dare you to commit an act of premeditated mercy. Be patient with people’s quirks. Give people a second chance. Who is an unbeliever you can invite over for dinner in the next two weeks, just like Matthew did? And then invite them to church. This friends is your ministry of mercy.