I’m not a very impulsive person, I tend to overthink things until I just decide to not do them. My wife on the other hand is very spontaneous and on occasion, that rubs off a little bit on me. This summer she was planning to go get a tattoo with a friend and the night before I asked if I could tag along to get one as well. It was a big moment for me, I just decided I wanted to do something and completely shocked Jill when I said I wanted to go.
To be clear, I am saying the most spontaneous thing I have ever done is get a small 2 inch tattoo that I had been mulling over for 6 years. Long story short, Daniel, our keys player in the band at church and I got a tattoo that day and Jill and her friend did not.
My tattoo says “kyrie eleison” which is Greek for “Lord have mercy on me”. I first heard that phrase in college at an Aaron Pelsue Band concert. He uses the phrase in his song “Mercy” and explained what it meant. What really caught my attention was that the phrase is in all three tenses, so it is saying “you have had mercy on me in the past, you are having mercy on me now and you will continue to have mercy on me in the future”. I was blown away by that idea and sentiment. Ever since, I knew if I ever got a tattoo, it would say “kyrie eleison”.
I got to thinking about mercy this week because it came up as one of my spiritual gifts on the GPS assessment as I am sure it did for several of you. The little blurb they have to say about mercy is “The ability to perceive when someone is suffering, and to empathize and help them. The ability to provide compassionate and cheerful support to those experiencing distress, crisis, or pain.”
While that is great and I am blessed to have that gift as many of you do as well, I couldn’t help but think that we are to all offer mercy, just as we offer grace or forgiveness, whether it is our spiritual gift or not. Some of us may have the gift to be aware of when others are in need of help and compassion, but surely we all can offer mercy in our interactions with family, friends and folks we see in the grocery store or we are sharing the road with.
Anytime I talk about mercy I always think about sitting in during a college class during my visit to Kentucky Christian University when I was in high school. I will never forget this professor used a story to explain the difference between grace and mercy. He said if he came home and found his wife cheating on him with another man, mercy would be not punching him in the face, grace would be inviting him to stay for dinner that night.
I had two big takeaways from that story: 1. Grace can be hard to give, but it is nearly impossible without mercy. If showing mercy means to not give someone what they deserve, then that has to be a starting place for us before we can even begin to consider offering grace. 2. Bible college was going to be different than I thought.
If God didn’t give us mercy, if he chose to punish us for our sins, it would be pretty difficult to get to the grace part. The gift of grace that God gives us is a step beyond the mercy he shows us by not giving us what we deserve.
There are a lot of broken relationships out there. Marriages, parents and kids, siblings, friends, co-workers, boss and employee, facebook friends, and the list could go on and on. It is easy to get caught up in giving others what is “fair”, doing what is “right”, or treating others one way because they treated you that way. The problem with that is all of those things fly in the face of mercy. Mercy is inherently unfair to the person offering mercy. It is not at all how you were treated, and what is “right” is exactly what you are choosing to not do when you decide to show mercy.
I’m not suggesting that all broken relationships can be healed by a single act of mercy. But I am suggesting that it is a great place to start. I would even say it is a great way to prevent a broken relationship. Just think, if there had been some mercy offered along the way, do you think that broken relationship you have been thinking about would look the way it does today?
I think we all would love to get to a place where we can offer grace, or a gift undeserved, to those people close to us who may have hurt us. But without mercy present, I’m not convinced that grace is even possible. And between the two, I would say most of us have a harder time with the idea of giving mercy because deep down, we kind of want people to get what they deserve. We want to dish out our own justice and we want people to pay, and sometimes even suffer, for the hurt and pain they have caused.
I for one though am eternally glad and thankful that God has had mercy on me in the past, he has mercy on me now and he will continue to have mercy on me in the future. I hope and pray that we can be the kind of people who show that kind of mercy to our families, friends and neighbors.