I’ve been wronged so I wrong back. I’ve been hurt, so I hurt in return. That’s just the way it is.
I mean, it’s so normal, hey?
Our society has a pretty strong conviction that a good story isn’t a good story without a sassy comeback, calling someone out, or when things aren’t to your liking, demanding to see a manager. In fact, these scenarios fuel our narratives. They push our adrenaline and even make us more likable to those around us. We tell stories like this with a sense of pride, giving people strong impressions of our steely resolves, as if these stories make us better people.
“She won’t take anyone’s crap…”
“They got what they deserved…”
“Good for you for standing up for yourself…”
There have been very few times in my life where mercy has been my instinct. My first choice reaction when met with a negative situation is usually anger, outrage, action, or offense… snappy comments work too. My first reaction is the kind that makes a good story. I find myself mulling over negative situations in my head, thinking of ways to retaliate or justify myself.
I was wondering about this the other day and a thought occurred to me: Are my instincts God’s instincts?
We have an all powerful God: able to cure sickness, form mountains, and spin galaxies into place. He is the most talented artist and beautiful problem solver. This God is big, strong, and incredibly intelligent and out of all that intelligence, big-ness, and strength, I see time and time again (in my life and in the Bible) that His first instinct is often mercy.
Mercy. Are you kidding?
Did you know that the word “justice” in the Bible is mentioned about 130 times, roughly around the same amount as the word “mercy”? Pretty ironic, don’t you think?
But isn’t that who He is? The master of irony. The Lord of paradox. The creator of the beautiful dichotomy of flawless grace and expected justice?
In our moments of weakness, He is strength.
In our failings and mistakes, He is forgiveness and restoration.
In the face of the worst things we have ever done, He makes a path to return us to Himself.
That in the depths of sin, He provides a way to wholeness and freedom again through ultimate sacrifice.
Christians, this is the God we serve. This is the God who saved us and continues to save us. His strong hand is just as effective as His quiet whispers. This omnipotent God constantly chooses mercy as a first response, and I think, especially now, we often let anything but mercy set the pace in our instincts and habits.
Regardless of that truth, I am finding more and more, I want my first reaction to be mercy.
In mercy I am more vulnerable. I have more to lose. But my heart is also more open to feel and receive.
In mercy I might be putting myself up against expectation and retaliation, but I’m ultimately making room in my life for the things that really matter.
You might know from personal experience that when you are met with mercy in a tense conversation, it changes everything. It breaks barriers, cuts societal mindsets, and makes hope and peace a more obvious option.
We have the opportunity to show the character of God in more ways than just preaching on a Sunday morning or leading musical worship on a Wednesday night. We have more opportunities for people to understand the language of God’s heart through mercy than judgement and retaliation will ever give us.
So I offer this challenge to you today: How can you make mercy an instinct in your life?
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you …Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27, 36
“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13
Guest write by Tabatha Beiser.