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The Father's Mercy

by Christopher Robinson


LORD, IN YOUR MERCY, HEAR OUR PRAYER.” Do these words sound familiar? If you are a fan of Steve Bell then you have probably heard him sing them. They are in the refrain of a song that is near and dear to my heart. Perhaps the writer was inspired by Psalm 101: My song is of mercy and justice; I sing to you, O Lord (Psalm 101:1).

Every time we pray and intercede for someone, we are actually asking our Lord to pour out his mercy upon that person. Thus, our intercession becomes an act of mercy. The more we intercede for others, the more we become aware of the many ways in which God bestows mercy on us. As that awareness increases, we realize just how weak we really are, and how dependent we are on our Lord. This awareness builds trust in God. For God's mercy is bigger than all of our sins and failings.

When we realize God's mercy in our own lives, we are compelled to practice mercy both on ourselves and on the people around us. Jesus said, "Happy the merciful, they shall have mercy shown them" (Matthew 5:7). I like this verse; it sounds like a great bargain because I certainly need to have mercy shown to me every day.

I think that Psalm 51 is my favorite psalm; it seems to sum up our need for mercy:

Have mercy on me, God in you kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offence.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.
My offences truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.
Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

 When other people experience mercy from us they are freed from the burden of guilt, allowing them to repent and forgive themselves. Also, in receiving mercy from us, people become open to believing in God's mercy for them. God's mercy works the same way — it frees us from guilt and allows us to repent and to have mercy on ourselves.

Jesus gave us a new commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you." How has Jesus loved us? He became the instrument of mercy in the world. God's love and mercy became visible to us through Jesus. God's love for us compelled him to have mercy on us by incarnating Jesus. The love that he pours upon us compels us to have mercy on each other and on ourselves. Indeed, mercy is the great act of love.

The Fruits of Mercy

As noted above, acts of mercy increase our trust in God. More trust means less worry and worrying less is a good thing! Worry produces stress which takes a terrible toll on our bodies and, not only that, it interferes with our obedience to Christ. After all, Jesus is the one who told us not to worry. Rather, he exhorts us to set our heart on God's kingdom first and let him look after all of our temporal needs (Cf. Matthew 6:25ff). Worry seems to block God's mercy; worry can actually be seen as a lack of faith.

Peace is another fruit of mercy; peace in our hearts, peace with ourselves, peace with our neighbours, peace with our enemies. As we extend mercy to our neighbours, we experience peace — another great bargain for spiritual bargain hunters. This peace is not simply an absence of conflict; it is the peace of God that passes all understanding.

Does this seem to keep getting better and better? Good! Because that is exactly what happens — it just keeps getting better and better and better... that is always the way it is with God.

I would be remiss if I did not mention joy. Remembering that intercession calls down God's mercy thus enabling sinners to repent, it is easy to figure out that joy is another fruit of mercy. When I think of joy as a fruit of mercy, three parables of God's mercy recorded by Saint Luke (Luke 15) come to mind.

The first was about a shepherd with a hundred sheep but one had gone astray; the shepherd rejoiced with his friends when he found his lost sheep. Jesus assured his listeners that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous people who have no need of repentance.

The second parable was about a woman who lost one of her ten drachmas. Upon finding it she, too, rejoiced with her neighbours. Again, Jesus assures us that "there is more rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner" (v.10).

The third parable is of the Prodigal Son. When the dutiful son complained about the party to celebrate his brother's return, the father explained it this way: "...it was only right that we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found" (v.32).

The evidence here indicates that exercising mercy brings at least three good fruits into our lives: trust in God, peace which passes all understanding, and heavenly joy.